Sunday, May 31, 2015

One Is Enough


Pennsylvania Voters Prefer Hillary Clinton For 2016




Public Policy Polling® surveyed 799 registered voters, including 385 Democratic primary voters and 334 Republican primary voters, from May 21st to 24th. The margin of error for the overall survey is +/- 3.5%, for the Democrats it’s +/-5.0%, and for the Republicans it’s +/-5.4%. 

The latest state to be surveyed about the presidential campaign by Public Policy Polling is Pennsylvania. Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming choice among Democrats -- even among the "very liberal" Democrats (the group that Sanders and O'Malley are trying to get a foothold in).

Among Republicans, Scott Walker was the favorite. He only got 17% of the vote, but that's five points better than Carson, Christie, and Santorum -- and six points better than Huckabee. All of the other candidates (including Bush and Rubio) finished with less than 10%.

But perhaps the most interesting chart is the one below. It asked all voters who they would prefer if the various Democratic hopefuls ran against the leading Republican (Walker). Note that Pennsylvania voters prefer Hillary Clinton over Scott Walker by four points -- but all of the other Democratic hopefuls would lose to Walker. Sanders would lose by five points, and the other Democrats by even more.


Immune To Reason

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

More Young People Now Claiming No Religious Affiliation

(Citation: Twenge JM, Exline JJ, Grubbs JB, Sastry R, Campbell WK (2015) Generational and Time Period Differences in American Adolescents’ Religious Orientation, 1966–2014. PLoS ONE)

A new study was released in May of 2015. It surveyed 338,912 8th graders, 306,148 10th graders, 531,192 12th graders, and 9,959,250 college students (and because of these huge numbers of respondents, the margin of error is a tiny one). The study was about the religious affiliation of young Americans, and the complete study can be accessed at PLOS ONE.

I bring you here only what has happened to the religious affiliation of the young in this 21st Century -- since 2000. Note that the number of "nones" (those with no religious affiliation at all) has increased in every age group surveyed -- 4 points for 8th graders, 6 points for 10th graders, 8 points for 12th graders, and 13 points for college students.

Part of this is because more students now days have parents who are not religious, and part is because many young people just can't accept the hate being taught by many churches. But regardless of the reason, it is an undeniable fact that more and more of the young are abandoning religion. This has been happening since the 60's and 70's, and there is no reason to believe this trend won't continue.

It will be interesting to see what the numbers are after another 10-15 years.

Denial

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

President Obama Proclaims June As LGBT Pride Month


On Friday (May 29th), president Barack Obama issued a proclamation declaring the month of June to be LESBIAN, GAY, BISEXUAL, AND TRANSGENDER PRIDE MONTH. Here is the text of that proclamation:

A PROCLAMATION

From the moment our Nation first came together to declare the fundamental truth that all men are created equal, courageous and dedicated patriots have fought to refine our founding promise and broaden democracy’s reach. Over the course of more than two centuries of striving and sacrifice, our country has expanded civil rights and enshrined equal protections into our Constitution. Through struggle and setback, we see a common trajectory toward a more free and just society.

But we are also reminded that we are not truly equal until every person is afforded the same rights and opportunities — that when one of us experiences discrimination, it affects all of us — and that our journey is not complete until our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law.

Across our Nation, tremendous progress has been won by determined individuals who stood up, spoke out, and shared their stories. Earlier this year, because of my landmark Executive Order on LGBT workplace discrimination, protections for Federal contractors went into effect, guarding against discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Federal Government is now leading by example, ensuring that our employees and contractors are judged by the quality of their work, not by who they love. And I will keep calling on the Congress to pass legislation so that all Americans are covered by these protections, no matter where they work.

In communities throughout the country, barriers that limit the potential of LGBT Americans have been torn down, but too many individuals continue to encounter discrimination and unfair treatment.

My Administration supports efforts to ban the use of conversion therapy for minors because the overwhelming scientific evidence demonstrates that it can cause substantial harm. We understand the unique challenges faced by sexual and gender minorities — especially transgender and gender non-conforming individuals — and are taking steps to address them.

And we recognize that families come in many shapes and sizes. Whether biological, foster, or adoptive, family acceptance is an important protective factor against suicide and harm for LGBTQ youth, and mental health experts have created resources to support family communication and involvement.

For countless young people, it is not enough to simply say it gets better; we must take action too. We continue to address bullying and harassment in our classrooms, ensuring every student has a nurturing environment in which to learn and grow. Across the Federal Government, we are working every day to unlock the opportunities all LGBT individuals deserve and the resources and care they need.

Too many LGBTQ youth face homelessness and too many older individuals struggle to find welcoming and affordable housing; that is why my Administration is striving to ensure they have equal access to safe and supportive housing throughout life. We are updating our National HIV/AIDS Strategy to better address the disproportionate burden HIV has on communities of gay and bisexual men and transgender women.

We continue to extend family and spousal benefits to legally married same-sex couples. And because we know LGBT rights are human rights, we are championing protections and support for LGBT persons around the world.

All people deserve to live with dignity and respect, free from fear and violence, and protected against discrimination, regardless of their gender identity or sexual orientation.

During Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month, we celebrate the proud legacy LGBT individuals have woven into the fabric of our Nation, we honor those who have fought to perfect our Union, and we continue our work to build a society where every child grows up knowing that their country supports them, is proud of them, and has a place for them exactly as they are.

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim June 2015 as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month. I call upon the people of the United States to eliminate prejudice everywhere it exists, and to celebrate the great diversity of the American people.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this twenty-ninth day of May, in the year of our Lord two thousand fifteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and thirty-ninth.

Locked In To His Past

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

Only Then


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Eleanor


Clinton Most Popular With Democrats (And General Public)



The YouGov Poll has done a new national presidential survey (between May23rd and 25th of a random sample of 1,000 adults, with about a 4 point margin of error). They asked about whether the public (and party members) viewed each candidate favorably, and then they asked who the public and (party members) thought should be the nominee of each party.

Hillary Clinton topped the list of candidates as being viewed most favorably (47%) by the general public, with Joe Biden finishing second (41%). No Republican topped 37%, and the other major Democrat (Bernie Sanders) was viewed favorably by 28% of the general public -- putting him in eleventh place among both parties.

Clinton also topped other candidates among Democrats (82%) and Liberals (81%). Biden scored 70% favorability with Democrats and 80% with liberals. Sanders finished with 46% among Democrats and 58% among liberals. The top six favorability numbers among Republicans for their candidates were Rubio (63%), Paul (60%), Huckabee (58%), Bush (53%), Cruz (52%), and Walker (50%). All other GOP candidates finished with less than 50% favorability.

The charts below show the results of who the people think should be their party's presidential candidate. Once again, Clinton left everyone else in the dust -- getting 32% from the general public, 59% from Democrats, and 48% from liberals. Sanders was second among Democrats -- finishing with 14% of the public, 17% of Democrats, and 28% of liberals. Biden got 10% from the public, 8% from Democrats, and 5% from liberals.

No Republican got over 9% from the general public, or 16% from their own party. It's still a fact that there is no favorite among Republicans, and we are still waiting for someone to break out of the pack.



No Contest

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at darrinbell.com.

Support For A Public Option In Health Insurance Is Growing


There is little doubt that the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) improved the health care system in this country. Even those who say they don't like it don't want to give up most of the changes made by the law. But most Americans also know that Obamacare didn't solve all of the problems of our health care system -- and most would like to see either expansion or changes to the law.

And one of those changes that has been growing in popularity is a "public option" -- which would give all Americans the right to purchase insurance from the government (like a Medicare-for-all) instead of buying insurance from a private company. Nearly half of the population (46%) is in favor of a public option being offered, while only 30% would be opposed to that. That's a big difference from when the law was passed a few years ago (when most people seemed to be against a public option for insurance).

And this plurality in favor of offering a public option exists for both men and women, and among all age groups but one -- those 65 and over. I find this strange, because that's the only group (except for the poor) that has government insurance (Medicare). It's not because they don't like Medicare. Medicare (along with Social Security) is one of the most popular programs in the country among those over 65 (and among the general population). Maybe this age group thinks offering a public option to others will somehow affect their own Medicare.

I would be in favor of offering a public option. Actually, I think we should go even further that that -- and put all Americans on a single-payer government-run insurance system -- but the country doesn't seem to be ready for that. They don't yet understand that a single-payer system would not only cover everyone, but would reduce the amount of money currently being sent on medical care. But offering a public option would be good, because it would be one more step toward a single-payer system.

These charts were made from information in a new YouGov Poll -- done between May 23rd and 25th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with about a 4 point margin of error.


Bribery

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

A Major Breakthrough In Treatment Of HIV/AIDS

(This image is from medicalnewstoday.com.)

We don't hear a lot about HIV/AIDS in the news these days, but it still affects millions of people -- both in this country and the world. That's why it is great news that a major medical breakthrough has been found to fight the disease. It doesn't involve a new medication, but on when the current medications should be started. Here is how that breakthrough is described by Tara Culp-Ressler for Think Progress:

A major international clinical trial funded by the National Institutes for Health (NIH) has been cut short a year early, now that researchers have documented such compelling results about the right way to deliver HIV treatment.
The Strategic Timing of AntiRetroviral Treatment (START) study, which has been tracking more than 4,600 HIV-positive people in dozens of countries since 2011, aimed to figure out when patients should begin taking a combination of drugs that can effectively suppress the virus. 
Antiretroviral drugs are a major advance in HIV treatment that allow many HIV-positive individuals to live long and healthy lives. But, since the drugs can also come with significant side effects, global health experts have been hesitant to recommendprescribing them too early. The START study wanted to see whether it was better to start anti-retroviral therapy immediately, when HIV patients are still relatively healthy, or wait until their white blood cell count drops below a certain point. 
The clinical trial, which was initially scheduled to conclude at the end of 2016, randomly assigned participants to early and later treatment groups. But it became clear that the first group was delivering dramatically better results. Among the HIV-positive people who received early treatment, the risk of dying or developing a serious illness was reduced by 53 percent. 
The researchers considered those results to be so significant that they decided it wouldn’t be ethical to continue the study for another year. Instead, they’re halting it now and giving all of the participants immediate access to antiretroviral drugs.
“We now have clear-cut proof that it is of significantly greater health benefit to an HIV-infected person to start antiretroviral therapy sooner rather than later,” Dr. Anthony Fauci, the director of NIH’s National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which funded most of the research, told NBC News. “These findings have global implications for the treatment of HIV.”
Indeed, the NIH’s results may have a demonstrable impact on the estimated 35 million people living with the virus. Although the World Health Organization has recently updated its treatment guidelines to recommend starting antiretroviral treatment early, it still stipulates that patients’ white blood cell count should fall below a certain threshold before taking the drugs. START’s results could spur the international community to endorse treatment for everyone diagnosed with the virus — the position that the United Nations’ AIDS agency took after the study’s findings were publicized.
“Every person living with HIV should have immediate access to life-saving antiretroviral therapy,” Michel SidibĂ©, the executive director of UNAIDS, said in a statement. “Delaying access to HIV treatment under any pretext is denying the right to health.”
The results aren’t necessarily a surprise to researchers in the field, who have increasingly been documenting the benefits of early HIV treatment. But they provide the most compelling evidence so far that the potential side effects of the drugs are not serious enough — and the benefits to patients’ personal health are too great — to justify delaying treatment, even for people who still appear to be healthy. Dr. Jens Lundgren of the University of Copenhagen, who helped sponsor the START study, called it “an important milestone in HIV research.”
Not every country, of course, will be able to immediately begin providing this treatment to everyone with HIV. The global health community is continuing to work toward universal access to HIV treatment, but we’re not there yet. Although the price of antiretroviral drugs has recently dropped thanks to increased competition in the market, cost issues remain a concern.
The study results also underscore the importance of regular testing and early diagnosis, something that HIV prevention experts have been saying for years. 

Although routine HIV testing is now covered under Obamacare as an essential preventative health measure, there’s a long way to go here in the United States, where about 15 percent of HIV-positive Americans don’t know they have the virus. That number rises dramatically among young Americans between 16 and 24 years old, 60 percent of whom are unaware of their status. This particular knowledge gap contributes to the fact that — despite the advances in HIV treatment that ensure a diagnosis is not a death sentence — federal officials report just three in ten Americans living with HIV currently have the virus in check.

Football Corruption

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

War Is A Crime


Friday, May 29, 2015

Hypocrisy Of A Texas Senator


Why Do Americans Like Free Trade Agreements ?



President Obama is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with Pacific nations -- the Trans-pacific Partnership (TPP). I think this is a bad deal for Americans, especially American workers. Just like other free trade agreements (NAFTA, CAFTA, etc.), this agreement will encourage the offshoring of U.S. jobs and result in a further downward pressure on worker wages in the United States.

And it seems that a significant number of Americans agree with me about jobs and wages 9see the charts above). All of the charts on this page were made from a new survey by the Pew Research Center. They questioned a random national sample of 2,002 adults between May12th and 18th (and the survey had a margin of error of 2.5 points). Note that 46% said free trade agreements costs this country jobs, while only 28% said they create jobs. And a similar 46% said they result in lower wages for U.S. workers, while only 33% said they raise wages.

Looking at those results, one might think that most Americans would oppose free trade agreements (including the TPP), but that would be wrong. As the chart below shows, 58% of Americans believe free trade agreements have been good for the country. How could this be? The bottom chart gives us a clue. It seems that a plurality of Americans say free trade agreements lower the price of goods.

Personally, I find that to be sad -- and very troubling. A lot of Americans seem to be willing to throw American workers under to bus to save a few pennies on the things they buy. In my opinion, this is backwards. We should be willing to pay a few pennies more to keep good jobs in this country (and help American workers make a decent wage).



Corporate Generosity

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

Clinton Still Far Ahead (Even Among Party Liberals)


On Facebook yesterday, I saw post after post about how Hillary Clinton is scared of Bernie Sanders. Frankly, I'm just not buying into that. It sounds like a lot of wishful thinking by some Sanders supporters. And the latest national poll shows there is no reason for Clinton to be afraid of anyone.

It is the Quinnipiac University Poll. It was done between May 19th and 26th of a random national sample of 1,711 registered voters, with a 2.4 point margin of error. The survey included 748 Democrats (3.6 point margin of error) and 679 Republicans (3.8 point margin of error).

That poll showed Clinton still has a massive 42 point lead over Sanders (57% to 15%). But that is not the worst news for Sanders. His natural constituency is the party's liberals, and Clinton has a 33 point lead among Democrats who say they are "very" liberal (61% to 28%). He needs to take a substantial majority of the party's liberals to even become a viable candidate, and so far at least, he is not making a dent in the liberal vote. He has simply absorbed those who wanted someone other than Clinton to begin with.

The chart below (from the same poll) shows a bit of good news for Democrats. Polling just in the states with senate races in 2016 shows the Democrats with a 7 point lead (42% to 35%). The biggest advantage is among women, who give Democrats a 14 point lead (46% to 32%). That's good, because women traditionally vote in significantly larger numbers than men. This is one more advantage to having Hillary Clinton at the top of the Democratic ticket, because among women her coattails are very long.


The Quinnipiac University survey also polled Republicans as to their preference, and it showed their is still no leader in the GOP presidential race. In fact, the race seems to have tightened up. At least five candidates are tied with 10% apiece -- and another four candidates are within 6 points of them. This is shaping up to be a free-for-all. Interestingly, the two newest candidates in the GOP race (Pataki and Santorum) didn't get enough support in the survey to even register at 1%. They have a long way to go -- but then, so do all the others.


Blaming Obama

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Texas Senate Emphasizes Its Support For Bigotry


The good news is that a whole passel of bad anti-gay bills failed to pass the Texas legislature as time ran out on the session. The bad news is that the Texas Senate couldn't leave well enough alone. They had to show their teabagger supporters that while they couldn't get new laws passed, they are still proud bigots. So they passed a non-binding resolution proclaiming their belief that equal rights are not for all Texans. This is how David Badash at The New Civil Rights Movement describes this exercise in hate:

The Texas state legislature meets once every two years for 140 days. When their time is up, it's up, and so lawmakers scramble at the last minute to try to pass as many bills as they can that they know will become law. 

This year, fearing a likely Supreme Court ruling in support of same-sex marriage, Texas lawmakers worked extra hard to draft, debate, lobby for, and pass almost two dozen bills aimed at harming the LGBT community. From "religious freedom" bills to adoption curtailment to protecting "ex-gay therapy," to actually defunding same-sex marriage in the Lone Star State, Texas lawmakers earned their reputation as among America's most anti-gay elected officials.

But a bill cannot become a law unless both the House and the Senate pass it, so lawmakers have been scrambling to coordinate which bills they could get through their respective houses. In the end, the twenty-plus anti-gay bills died.

But Texas Senators last night chose to ignore the horrific flooding that's taken at least 20 lives, chose to ignore their state's dismal record on child homelessness (Texas ranks 39th, with 50 being the worst), chose to ignore its high percentage of children in poverty, chose to ignore its high percentage of child food insecurity.

Instead, led by the Texas Senate GOP caucus, working late into the night the Texas Senate debated and passed a non-binding resolution attacking same-sex marriage. All 20 Republicans, and one Democrat, voted in favor of the SR1028, which passed 21-10.

No Baggage

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at farleftside.com.

Economic Truths


Thursday, May 28, 2015

Bill Gates On Taxes And Growth


Our Partisan Politics Is Dividing Us In Other Ways


This chart was made from a recent YouGov Poll -- done between May 16th and 18th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of 4.4 points. I found it a bit troubling.

It is obvious that Republicans and Democrats have different political views, and those views have become even more partisan in recent years. But is there really a difference outside of politics? Too many Democrats and Republicans believe there is.

It turns out that a significant number of Republicans believe that Democrats are less likely to be faithful to their spouse, less likely to be a hard worker, and less likely to be a good parent. And a significant number of Democrats believe Republicans are less likely to be friendly to strangers, less likely to play a positive role in the community, and less likely to be generous to others.

This makes me think we are taking our partisanship too far. We are trying to apply it to qualities that simply are not true. I am a liberal Democrat (and proud of it), but I don't think my Republican friends (and yes, I do have some) are any less likely to be a good person than I am. We are all struggling to lives our lives as best as we can, and our political views don't make us any better or worse than anyone else.

Don't get me wrong. I think the liberal agenda that I believe in would be the best for most Americans. But outside of some of their disingenuous leaders, I think most Republicans also believe their views are the solution that would be best for this country. But neither of those beliefs make us bad people.

We need to rein in the partisanship. As Americans, we should be able to disagree on politics (and do our best to further our views) and still be friends -- respectful of each other.

Attitude Change

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

The Social Morality In The U.S. Is Becoming More Liberal


I found this very interesting. It's a comparison of a new Gallup Poll (done between May 6th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,024 adults, with a margin of error of 4 points) with that same poll taken in 2001. It's pretty striking how much more liberal this country's idea of what's moral has become since 2001.

The biggest difference is the acceptance of relations between gay and lesbian couples -- a 23 point change in the last 15 years. But that's not all. There has been significant change in many other areas as well. Only two areas show a decrease in acceptance -- the death penalty and medical testing on animals -- and even that shows a move to a more liberal philosophy.

I'm sure that most in the religious right would be horrified by this liberalization of the country's morality. After all, they want to tell other people how to live their lives -- and this change is just the opposite of that. It is a change that lets people take charge of their own lives, and make their own decisions. I think that's a good thing -- and I hope this change in our social morality continues. It's only right for a country that claims to value freedom.

Exceptional ?

Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at politico.com.

Nine Things American Exceptionalists Don't Understand

(This image is from the website herestheupshot.com.)

Far too many people in the United States think this country is special -- and that there's nothing we can learn from the rest of the world. That is ridiculous. We have plenty of problems in this country, and some of those could be solved if we would just be willing to look at others and learn.

The following post was written by Alex Henderson at Alternet. It concerns some of the things that American exceptionalists just don't understand.

To hear the far-right ideologues of Fox News and AM talk radio tell it, life in Europe is hell on Earth. Taxes are high, sexual promiscuity prevails, universal healthcare doesn’t work, and millions of people don’t even speak English as their primary language! Those who run around screaming about “American exceptionalism” often condemn countries like France, Norway and Switzerland to justify their jingoism. Sadly, the U.S.’ economic deterioration means that many Americans simply cannot afford a trip abroad to see how those countries function for themselves. And often, lack of foreign travel means accepting clichĂ©s about the rest of the world over the reality. And that lack of worldliness clouds many Americans' views on everything from economics to sex to religion. 
Here are nine things Americans can learn from the rest of the world.
1. Universal Healthcare Is Great for Free Enterprise and Great for Small Businesses
The modern-day Republican Party would have us believe that those who promote universal healthcare are anti-free enterprise or hostile to small businesses. But truth be told, universal healthcare is great for entrepreneurs, small businesses and the self-employed in France, Germany and other developed countries where healthcare is considered a right. The U.S.’ troubled healthcare system has a long history of punishing entrepreneurs with sky-high premiums when they start their own businesses. Prior to the Affordable Care Act of 2010, a.k.a. Obamacare, many small business owners couldn’t even obtain individual health insurance plans if they had a preexisting condition such as heart disease or diabetes—and even with the ACA’s reforms, the high cost of health insurance is still daunting to small business owners. But many Americans fail to realize that healthcare reform is not only a humanitarian issue, it is also vitally important to small businesses and the self-employed.  
In 2009, the Center for Economic and Policy Research published a study on small businesses around the world and found that “by every measure of small-business employment, the United States has among the world’s smallest small-business sectors.” People in the Netherlands, France, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Belgium and other European countries are more likely to be self-employed—and the study concluded that universal healthcare is a key factor. According to CEPR’s study, “High healthcare costs discourage small business formation since start-ups in other countries can tap into government-funded healthcare systems.”
2. Comprehensive Sex Education Decreases Sexual Problems
For decades, social conservatives in the U.S. have insisted that comprehensive sex education promotes unplanned pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases. But in fact, comprehensive sex education (as opposed to the abstinence-only programs that are common in the American Bible Belt) decreases sexual problems, and the data bears that out in no uncertain terms. Public schools in the Netherlands have aggressive sex education programs that America’s Christian Right would despise. Yet in 2009, the Netherlands had (according to the United Nations) a teen birth rate of only 5.3 per 1,000 compared to 39.1 per 1,000 in the U.S. That same year, the U.S. had three times as many adults living with HIV or AIDS as the Netherlands.
Switzerland, France, Germany and many other European countries also have intensive sex-ed programs and much lower teen pregnancy rates than the U.S. Still, far-right politicians in the U.S. can’t get it through their heads that inadequate sex education and insufficient sexual knowledge actually promote teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted diseases instead of decreasing them. 
3. American Exceptionalism Is Absolute Nonsense in 2015
No matter how severe the U.S.’ decline becomes, neocons and the Tea Party continue to espouse their belief in “American exceptionalism.” But in many respects, the U.S. of 2015 is far from exceptional. The U.S. is not exceptional when it comes to civil liberties (no country in the world incarcerates, per capita, more of its people than the U.S.) or healthcare (WHO ranks the U.S. #37 in terms of healthcare). Nor is the U.S. a leader in terms of life expectancy: according to the WHO, overall life expectancy in the U.S. in 2013 was 79 compared to 83 in Switzerland and Japan, 82 in Spain, France, Italy, Sweden and Canada and 81 in the Netherlands, Germany, Norway, Austria and Finland. 
4. Adequate Mass Transit Is a Huge Convenience
When it comes to mass transit, Europe and Japan are way ahead of the U.S.; in only a handful of American cities is it easy to function without a car. New York City, Chicago, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, DC are among the U.S.’ more mass transit-oriented cities, but overall, the U.S. remains a car culture—and public transportation is painfully limited in a long list of U.S. cities. Many Americans fail to realize that mass transit has numerous advantages, including less air pollution, less congestion, fewer DUIs and all the aerobic exercise that goes with living in a pedestrian-friendly environment.
5. The Bible Was Not Written by Billionaire Hedge Fund Managers
Christianity in its various forms can be found all over the developed world. But the U.S., more than anywhere, is where one finds a far-right version of white Protestant fundamentalism that idolizes the ultra-rich, demonizes the poor and equates extreme wealth with morality and poverty with moral failings. The problem with hating the poor in the name of Christianity is that the Bible is full of quotes that are much more in line with Franklin Delano Roosevelt than Ayn Rand—like “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God” (Mark 10:25) and “The love of money is the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10).   
6. Learning a Second or Third Language Is a Plus, Not a Character Flaw
In the Netherlands or the Scandinavian countries, becoming proficient in two or three foreign languages is viewed as a sign of intellect and sophistication. But xenophobia runs so deep among many neocons, Republicans and Tea Party wingnuts that any use of a language other than English terrifies them. Barack Obama, during his 2008 campaign, was bombarded with hateful responses from Republicans when he recommended that Americans study foreign languages from an early age. And in the 2012 GOP presidential primary, Newt Gingrich’s campaign ran an ad in South Carolina attacking Mitt Romney for being proficient in French.
In February, an eighth-grade girl who was studying Latin in Vermont received equally clueless responses when she wrote to a state senator suggesting that Vermont adopt a Latin motto in addition to its English-language motto (not as a replacement). The wingnuts went ballistic, posting on the Facebook page of a local television station that if the girl wanted to speak Latin, she should move to Latin America. 
7. Union Membership Benefits the Economy
In 2014, a Gallup poll found that 53% of Americans approved of labor unions while 71% favored anti-union “right to work” laws. Union membership is way down in the U.S.: only 6.6% of private-sector workers, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, belonged to unions in 2014 compared to roughly 35% in the mid-1950s. The U.S.’ overall unionization rate (factoring in both public-sector and private-sector workers) is 11.1%, which is quite a contrast to parts of Europe, where overall union rates range from 74% in Finland and 70% in Sweden to 35% in Italy, 19% in Spain and 18% in Germany. That is not to say unionization has not been decreasing in Europe, but overall, one finds a more pro-labor, pro-working class outlook in Europe. The fact that 47% of Americans, in that Gallup poll, consider themselves anti-union is troubling. Too many Americans naively believe that the 1% have their best interests at heart, and they fail to realize that when unions are strong and their members earn decent wages, that money goes back into the economy.
8. Paid Maternity Leave Is the Norm in Most Developed Countries
The U.S. continues to lag behind the rest of the developed world when it comes to maternity leave. Paid maternity leave is strictly voluntary in the U.S., where, according to the organization Moms Rising, 51% of new mothers have no paid maternity leave at all. But government-mandated maternity leave is the norm in other developed countries, including the Netherlands (112 days at 100% pay), Italy (140 days at 80% pay), Switzerland (98 days at 80% pay) and Germany (98 days at 100% pay).
9. Distrust of Oligarchy Is a Positive
In February, the Emnid Polling Institute in Germany released the results of a poll that addressed economic and political conditions in that country: over 60% of the Germans surveyed believed that large corporations had too much influence on elections. The survey demonstrated that most Germans have a healthy distrust of crony capitalists and oligarchs who take much more than they give. Meanwhile, in the U.S., various polls show a growing distrust of oligarchy on the part of many Americans but with less vehemence than in the German Emnid poll. A 2012 poll by the Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research showed that while 62% of American voters opposed the U.S. Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, only 46% strongly opposed it. And in a 2012 poll by the Corporate Reform Coalition, most Americans agreed that there was too much corporate money in U.S. politics—although only 51% strongly agreed.

Don't The Feds Know ?

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

Tax The Rich


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Norman Mailer


Our Politicians Lack The Courage To Fix A National Tragedy


Even 40 years later, Americans consider Vietnam to be a tragedy. And they should. Far too many were wounded and killed in that war -- a war that never should have been fought by this country. We have even built a memorial to the brave soldiers who died in that conflict.

But Americans kill each other with guns in far larger numbers than the deaths and injuries of the Vietnam War. In the last 10 years, 750,000 Americans were wounded by guns (while 304,000 were wounded in Vietnam), and 130,000 were killed by guns (while 58,000 soldiers were killed in Vietnam) -- and that number has recently risen to about 30,000 gun deaths a year. Why is this not considered a national shame, and a tragedy worthy of action by our political representatives?

The answer of course, is that the gun manufacturers have a very effective lobbying organization -- the National Rifle Association (NRA). The NRA used to be an organization that promoted gun safety and reasonable regulation, but no more. Now the organization is just the propaganda arm of American gun manufacturers, and opposes any effort to reasonably regulate guns -- even efforts to keep guns from being sold to convicted criminals. They paint any responsible effort to do that as a government effort to confiscate guns from honest and responsible citizens.

That propaganda campaign isn't even remotely true, but it has been effective. The truth is that NO ONE -- not the president, not the Democrats, and not even most liberals -- want to take guns away from responsible and honest Americans (or prevent them from buying guns). What we do want is to make it as hard as possible for criminals (including convicted domestic abuser) and the dangerously mentally ill to buy a gun.

One way to do this, a way that is both constitutional and reasonable, is to close the loopholes in the background check law required of gun purchasers. About 40% of all gun sales in the United States are done without any background check at all. That is ridiculous, because it means that any criminal can legally purchase a gun anytime they want (without having to resort to the difficult and dangerous world of underground illegal gun sales). There is no legitimate excuse for allowing that.

Polls have shown that between 75% and 90% of the public would support closing the loopholes in the background check law. So why haven't our politicians acted to do what the public wants done? Because too many of them have sold out to the NRA for political donations, and too many more are afraid the NRA will spend large sums to defeat them on election day. In short, they are political cowards.

How many more massacres like that at Newtown (Connecticut) is it going to take to give our politicians some backbone? I shudder to think.

An Inexcusable Mindset

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

Bernie Sanders Announces His Candidacy - Again

(This photo of Bernie Sanders is from CNN.)

On Tuesday, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont announced he was running for the Democratic presidential nomination. This is no surprise to anyone. Back on April 30th, he told everyone he was a candidate for that nomination (and started collecting campaign funds). Tuesday was just the "official" announcement.

I know a lot of my progressive friends like to think Democrats will flock to the Sanders candidacy, and that he will be able to raise the money to run an effective campaign. I doubt it though. Currently Hillary Clinton is extremely popular among Democrats nationwide, and is sitting on a huge campaign chest.

Will Sanders' official announcement start that flood of voters to support him. Probably not. The chart below shows the results of the three national polls that have been taken on the Democratic race since Sanders' first announcement -- a YouGov Poll, a Public Policy Polling survey, and a Fox News Poll. That announcement didn't cost Clinton any support, and this one won't either.

If Sanders is to have any chance in this race, it will be in the Democratic debates. Almost immediately after Sanders announced in April, Clinton generously agreed to participate in three debates. I expect millions of Democrats nationwide will be watching those debates, and that will be Sanders' best chance to win them over.

But Hillary Clinton's popularity is not Sanders' only problem. Martin O'Malley says he will announce his own candidacy next Saturday -- and he will be trying to win over the same liberals that Sanders is going after. If they split that vote, it will be bad news for both of them.


GOP Debate

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