Sunday, January 31, 2016


Are Sanders Campaign "Mistakes" A Sign Of Desperation ?

(This caricature of Bernie Sanders is by DonkeyHotey.)

Let me preface my remarks by saying that while I support Hillary Clinton currently, I have long been a fan of Senator Bernie Sanders. I think he's one of the two best senators in the U.S. Senate (and I even donated money to his last senate campaign).

But I am very disappointed in some of the actions his presidential campaign has done lately. Out in Nevada, some of his campaign staffers have been posing as Culinary Union members to get access to union members at their work. This is a large and important union in Nevada, and the posers give the impression that the union is endorsing Sanders in the Democratic primary. That is not true, and those actions have angered union officials. Here is the statement put out by the union:

We can confirm multiple reports of Bernie Sanders’ campaign staffers attempting and gaining access to Employee Dining Rooms at Las Vegas Strip properties where over 57,000 members that we represent work.
We are disappointed and offended. It’s completely inappropriate for any campaign to attempt to mislead Culinary Union members, especially at their place of work.  The Culinary Union button that hundreds of thousands of union members have proudly worn to work every day represents 80 years of struggle and fighting for justice. We strongly condemn anyone falsifying their affiliation with the Culinary Union in order to gain access to properties and we will cooperate with casinos and hotels so that this matter is fully resolved.

A case could be made that Sanders was unaware of what his staffers were doing in Nevada. After all, he has been spending most of his time recently in Iowa and New Hampshire. The Nevada staffers could have crossed the line without Sanders being aware of what they were doing.

But some other examples of "dirty tricks" are not so easy to explain away. Like the mailers being sent out to voters with the logos of the League of Conservation Voters and AARP on them -- giving the impression that these two organizations have endorsed his campaign.

Lawyers for the League of Conservation Voters have contacted the Sanders campaign, asking them to cease that action. The League requires permission to be given before anyone uses their logo (and they did not give that permission). And worse, the League has actually endorsed Sanders' opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The AARP was not happy either, and they put out this statement:

In response to the Sanders campaign mailing featuring AARP and the Association’s Take A Stand campaign, AARP does not endorse candidates, have a political action committee (PAC), or make contributions to political campaigns or candidates.
While we have encouraged the presidential candidates to lay out their plans to update Social Security, AARP did not authorize the Sanders campaign to mention AARP or use the AARP logo, and we did not participate in its production.

Then we come to the most egregious lie. The Sanders campaign is running a TV ad in Iowa that claims the Des Moines Register (Iowa's largest newspaper) endorsed Sanders. They did NOT endorse him. In fact, they have endorsed Hillary Clinton.

This is all very disappointing, especially for a candidate that promised to run a clean and above-board campaign. If Sanders did not know about these actions by his campaign, then he should have known. All mailers and TV ads should have been approved by the candidate before being used.

I don't think Sanders is a bad person -- far from it. But these actions have tarnished him a bit in my eyes. And they smack of desperation. It shows the campaign is not nearly as confident as they would have voters think.

No Favorite Here

Political Cartoon is by Tom Toles in The Washington Post.

Three New Polls Released On Iowa's Democratic Race

Iowa Democrats will caucus tomorrow night, and the polls are still showing a pretty close race. The Gravis poll has Clinton with an 11 point lead, while Public Policy Polling has her with an 8 point lead, and Quinnipiac has her trailing by 4 points.

This is going to come down to which candidate can get their supporters to the caucuses tomorrow night. Both candidates are claiming to have a good "ground game". We're about to find out which one is the best. Iowa (thanks to the caucus system) is hard to predict, but I still think Clinton will win (but not by very much).

The Gravis Marketing Poll was done on January 26th and 28th of a random sample of 810 Iowa Democrats, and has a 3 point margin of error.

The Public Policy Polling survey was done on January 26th and 27th of a random sample of 851 Iowa Democrats, and has a margin of error of 3.4 points.

The Quinnipiac University Poll was done between January 18th and 24th of a random sample of 606 Iowa Democrats, and has a margin of error of 4 points.

Realistic Barbie's

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

Like It Or Not - Sanders Does Have A "Socialist" Problem

Bernie Sanders (and his supporters) think they can explain his socialist identity to the voters, and that voters will flock to him once they understand his "democratic socialism". I am a democratic socialist myself, and I wish that was true -- but I don't think it is. There have been too many decades of right-wing propaganda -- propaganda that equated socialism with communism, and scared the hell out of most Americans. Some progress has been made, but not enough. A recent poll showed that a higher percentage of voters would vote for an atheist or a muslim (the two most hated groups in this country right now) than would vote for a socialist.

Now we have this new survey from the YouGov Poll -- done between January 25th and 27th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a 4.4 point margin of error. It shows that nearly half of the public still has a negative opinion of socialism (48%), and another 23% aren't sure about it. Only 29% have a favorable opinion of socialism. That's a pretty steep hill to climb for a self-identified socialist.

When asked if self-identification as a socialist would make them more or less likely to vote for Sanders, only 12% said it would make them more likely (and another 13% said they would vote for him regardless of what he called himself). But 18% said it would make them less likely to vote for him -- and another 39% said they wouldn't vote for him anyway.

I know a lot of my progressive brothers and sisters disagree with me (and that is reflected by the fact that among Democrats about 42% had a favorable opinion of socialism and 36% had a negative opinion), but I just don't think the public is ready to elect an avowed socialist as president. I hope that will change, but that change hasn't yet happened.

Is The Coast Clear ?

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at

Warren Calls For Stronger Enforcement Of Corporate Crime

Senator Elizabeth Warren has just written an op-ed piece for the New York Times. In it she calls for the stronger enforcement of laws relating to corporations and the Wall Street financial firms -- and she directs that message at all of the current Democratic presidential candidates. I think she is right. Our justice system doesn't work when some are held accountable and others (like corporations) are not.

Here is what she had to say:

WHILE presidential candidates from both parties feverishly pitch their legislative agendas, voters should also consider what presidents can do without Congress. Agency rules, executive actions and decisions about how vigorously to enforce certain laws will have an impact on every American, without a single new bill introduced in Congress.

The Obama administration has a substantial track record on agency rules and executive actions. It has used these tools to protect retirement savings, expand overtime pay, prohibit discrimination against L.G.B.T. employees who work for the government and federal contractors, and rein in carbon pollution. These accomplishments matter.

Whether the next president will build on them, or reverse them, is a central issue in the 2016 election. But the administration’s record on enforcement falls short — and federal enforcement of laws that already exist has received far too little attention on the campaign trail.

I just released a report examining 20 of the worst federal enforcement failures in 2015. Its conclusion: “Corporate criminals routinely escape meaningful prosecution for their misconduct.”

In a single year, in case after case, across many sectors of the economy, federal agencies caught big companies breaking the law — defrauding taxpayers, covering up deadly safety problems, even precipitating the financial collapse in 2008 — and let them off the hook with barely a slap on the wrist. Often, companies paid meager fines, which some will try to write off as a tax deduction.

The failure to adequately punish big corporations or their executives when they break the law undermines the foundations of this great country. Justice cannot mean a prison sentence for a teenager who steals a car, but nothing more than a sideways glance at a C.E.O. who quietly engineers the theft of billions of dollars.

These enforcement failures demean our principles. They also represent missed opportunities to address some of the nation’s most pressing challenges. Consider just two areas — college affordability and health care — where robust enforcement of current law could help millions of people.

When the Education Management Corporation, the nation’s second-largest for-profit college, signed up tens of thousands of students by lying about its programs, it saddled them with fraudulent degrees and huge debts. Those debts wrecked lives. Under the law, the government can bar such institutions from receiving more federal student loans. But EDMC just paid a fine and kept right on raking in federal loan money.

When Novartis, a major drug company that was already effectively on federal probation for misconduct, paid kickbacks to pharmacies to push certain drugs, it cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars and undermined patient health. Under the law, the government can boot companies that defraud Medicare and Medicaid out of those programs, but when Novartis got caught, it just paid a penalty — one so laughably small that its C.E.O. said afterward that it “remains to be seen” whether his company would actually consider changing its behavior.

Enforcement isn’t about big government or small government. It’s about whether government works and who it works for. Last year, five of the world’s biggest banks, including JPMorgan Chase, pleaded guilty to criminal charges that they rigged the price of billions of dollars worth of foreign currencies. No corporation can break the law unless people in that corporation also broke the law, but no one from any of those banks has been charged. While thousands of Americans were rotting in prison for nonviolent drug convictions, JPMorgan Chase was so chastened by pleading guilty to a crime that it awarded Jamie Dimon, its C.E.O., a 35 percent raise.

To be fair, weak enforcement is sometimes a result of limited authority. Despite the company’s history of egregious safety failures, for example, the former C.E.O. of Massey Energy was convicted only of a single misdemeanor in the deadly Upper Big Branch mine disaster that killed 29 miners in West Virginia in 2010, because federal mining laws are too weak. It’s on Congress to stiffen such penalties.

But in many instances, weak enforcement by federal agencies is about the people at the top. Presidents don’t control most day-to-day enforcement decisions, but they do nominate the heads of all the agencies, and these choices make all the difference. Strong leaders at the Environmental Protection Agency, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Labor Department have pushed those agencies to forge ahead with powerful initiatives to protect the environment, consumers and workers. The Special Inspector General for the Troubled Asset Relief Program, a tiny office charged with oversight of the post-crash bank bailout, has aggressive leaders — and a far better record of holding banks and executives accountable than its bigger counterparts.

Meanwhile, the Securities and Exchange Commission, suffering under weak leadership, is far behind on issuing congressionally mandated rules to avoid the next financial crisis. It has repeatedly granted waivers so that lawbreaking companies can continue to enjoy special privileges, while the Justice Department has dodged one opportunity after another to impose meaningful accountability on big corporations and their executives.

Each of these government divisions is headed by someone nominated by the president and confirmed by the Senate. The lesson is clear: Personnel is policy.

Legislative agendas matter, but voters should also ask which presidential candidates they trust with the extraordinary power to choose who will fight on the front lines to enforce the laws. The next president can rebuild faith in our institutions by honoring the simple notion that nobody is above the law, but it will happen only if voters demand it.

The Problem

Political Cartoon is by Matt Bors at

Freedom Of Religion

Saturday, January 30, 2016


"Hillary-Haters" Still Trying To Smear Her Using E-Mails

(This image of campaign symbols for 2016 is by DonkeyHotey.)

I had thought the e-mail "controversy" aimed at Hillary Clinton was over. She had been investigated by numerous entities, and none of them could come up with any wrongdoing by Clinton. Clinton did admit that it would have been better if she had not used a private e-mail account while Secretary of State -- but even that was not truly out-of-line, since the previous Secretaries of State had done the same thing.

Now the media is once again trumpeting that Hillary may have done something wrong. It seems that someone in the State Department has decided that a few of those e-mails cannot be released, because they are now considered "top secret". That smells to me like the stuff that comes out of the south end of a northbound bull -- pure crap.And an equally bad smell goes to the timing of these "leaks" -- right before Iowa voters meet at the caucuses.

Donald Trump immediately tweeted about Clinton's trustworthiness, and I'm sure all of his GOP rivals will do the same. That's to be expected, since they are all terrified of having to run against her in the general election, and they are trying to throw as much mud at her as possible.

Credit goes to Bernie Sanders, because he hasn't joined the mud-slingers regarding the "e-mail scandal" (which is no scandal at all). Unfortunately though, many of his supporters are more than happy to climb down into the gutter with right-wingers, and they are trying to insinuate this reflects negatively on Clinton. It does not.

There has also been a "leak" saying the FBI was ready to indict Clinton over e-mail wrongdoing. These idiots don't even know the FBI doesn't issue indictments (that's the job of a grand jury). And there is no reason to think Clinton did anything wrong (or illegal).

Let me emphasize:

* Clinton did not e-mail any secret information.
* Clinton's use of a private e-mail server is not different from what past officials in both parties have done.
* Clinton broke no laws by using a private e-mail server.
* The FBI is NOT investigating Clinton for wrong-doing (but only checking to see if her e-mail account could have been hacked by others).
* This is not a scandal, but an effort to smear Clinton by those who are terrified to run against her.

If you (or your candidate) have policy differences with Hillary Clinton, then by all means, bring those forth so that can be discussed. That is what campaigns are for. But stop the efforts to smear her with this non-scandal. It just makes you (and your candidate) look bad. It smells of desperation.


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

Hillary Clinton Has A Huge Lead Among Texas Democrats

Bernie Sanders is close in Iowa, and may actually win New Hampshire. But those states are not representative of how the race is going nationally. And by mid-March, his prospects of beating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination will look a lot poorer.

Take Texas for example. We're only about a month away from the day Texas voters will choose their delegates. Texans will vote on March 1st, as one of the Super-Tuesday states -- and the race is not close in Texas. Hillary Clinton currently has 50% support among Texas Democrats -- 34 points better than Bernie Sanders. Even if Sanders were to get 100% of the undecided voters (an impossibility), he still could not win Texas. And I suspect most (if not all) of the Super-Tuesday states have similar numbers.

For Texas Republicans, it looks like it is boiling down to a two-person race. Ted Cruz (who is a Texan) leads Donald Trump by 5 points (30.3% to 25.3%). Jeb Bush, who has many Texas ties, does very poorly in the state -- getting only about 8.2% support.

These charts were made from a new KTVT-CBS / Dixie Strategies Poll -- done on January 25th and 26th of 767 likely Texas Democratic voters and 1,001 likely Texas Republican voters. The margin of error for Democrats is 3.54 points, and for Republicans is 3.1 points.

Political Hate

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

Job Creation Is Not Hurt By A Higher Minimum Wage

The chart above shows the Gallup Poll Job Creation Index for the states. They get this index figure by subtracting the workers saying their company is laying off people from the workers who say their company is hiring people. The resulting figure shows the health of the job market in each state (with the higher number meaning the best job creation economy of the state). The figure on the right shows how many workers were questioned in each state.

It is a mantra of Republican elected officials (and candidates) that a higher minimum wage results in decreased job creation. This chart shows that is a fallacy. Sixteen of the twenty states with the best job creation index are states where is minimum wage is higher than the minimum wage established by the federal government ($7.25 hr.).

Raising the minimum wage doesn't hurt job creation, and it doesn't result in workers being laid off. It will help workers to get off federal assistance though, and it will boost the economy (thus creating more jobs). Americans may disagree about how much the minimum wage should be raised to, but an overwhelming majority want it raised. It's time that was done.

The Real Voter Fraud

Political Cartoon is by Tom Toles in The Washington Post.

Six Huge Lies That Republican Candidates Continue To Tell

[This caricature of Republican liars (i.e., candidates) is by DonkeyHotey.]

This was originally titled "6 Things You'll Probably Hear During The Fox News Debate That Are Totally False" when it appeared at Think Progress (written by Kira Lerner). That debate is over now, but I have no doubt that the Republican candidates will continue to tell these lies. After all, votes from their ignorant base are far more important to all of them than telling the truth. Here are those six huge lies they tell:

“Planned Parenthood… [was] in fact trafficking in baby body parts.”

A Texas grand jury this week declined to indict Planned Parenthood after being tasked with investigating allegations against the women’s health organization. Instead, the jury moved to indict the videographers who targeted Planned Parenthood with a series of highly edited, misleading videos. Unsurprisingly, the Republican candidates — many of whom have helped to lead the fight against the organization — were not pleased. Carly Fiorina said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio show on Tuesday that she knows the organization “has been trafficking in body parts” and “has been altering late-term abortion techniques to this specific purpose of harvesting body parts.” Similarly, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) said he was disturbed by the grand jury’s finding and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee took his anger to Twitter, saying that “Its [sic] a sick day in America when our govnt punishes those who expose evil w/ a cellphone — yet accommodates those who perform it with a scalpel.” 
Even before the Center for Medical Progress (CMP) videos were released last summer, Planned Parenthood was upfront about the fact that it is involved in tissue donation, but is not actually selling anything or benefiting financially. And courts have sided with Planned Parenthood on the matter. A California court issued a restraining order against CMP last summer and around the country, GOP-led investigations against Planned Parenthood have not turned up any proof that the organization is breaking the law.

“The satellite data demonstrate that there has been no significant warming whatsoever for 17 years.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and NASA announced last week that 2015 was officially the hottest year on record. But that won’t stop the GOP candidates from continuing to deny climate change. Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), the worst climate denier of the bunch, loves to repeat that line about satellite data whenever he is asked about the issue or about the environment. Of course, the statement has no basis, because satellites don’t measure the Earth’s temperature. While some of the other candidates are at least willing to acknowledge a small degree of human involvement in the warming of the plant, none of them are likely to propose solutions. 
Well before last week’s report on the severity of the issue, data has shown that the planet is warming and will continue to do so, especially if the next president doesn’t expand on Obama’s climate agenda. Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.

“[President Obama’s] first impulse always is to take rights away from law-abiding citizens.”

After Obama issued his executive action on guns earlier this month, Republican candidates were quick to call the move an assault on people’s Second Amendment rights. Jeb Bush said that remarkon Fox, but all of the contenders responded with some variation of the misleading line. Chris Christie said that the “president wants to act as if he’s a king, as if he’s a dictator,” and Trump vowed to overturn the action as soon as he takes office. “I will veto that. I will unsign that so fast,” he said.
Obama’s executive actions on guns will not actually take guns away from any “law-abiding citizens.” His measures are designed to narrow who can sell guns without a federal license, expand background checks and require them for people who try to buy firearms through a legal entity, and tighten rules for reporting guns that are lost or stolen. Among other changes, the FBI will also hire more people to help run background checks to meet rising demand. While the candidates may disagree, the actions the White House announced are popular with gun owners and NRA members.

“The biggest threat today… is Islamic terrorism”

Bush said this line on the Fox Business Network in November, but the remark could just as likely come out of many of the contenders’ mouths. The GOP candidates like to criticize President Obama’s decision not to call ISIS “Islamic extremists.” Like Bush, Cruz often declares that Obama “will not utter the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism’ and as matter of policy, nobody in the administration will say the words ‘radical Islamic terrorism.’”
The Republican candidates are quick to denounce Islamic terrorism after mass shootings like the one in San Bernardino, California that left 14 people dead. But they will not speak out about radical, right-wing Americans who actually pose a greater terrorist threat to the country. Recent studies have shown that domestic attacks by right-wing radicals are a graver concern to law enforcement and have led to more deaths than the threat of “homegrown jihadists.” And other common household objects — including swimming pools, cribs, planes, trains, and cars — are all more likely to kill people than terrorism.

“We have people pouring in. They’re pouring in.”

Trump says that line in one of his latest campaign ads. The real estate mogul loves to highlight the problem of undocumented immigrants, saying often that “there’s a huge problem with illegals coming through.” While he once seemed like the most extreme on immigration, most of his competitors are now in agreement. Cruz frequently discusses the need to secure the border in order to prevent “illegal” immigrants from breaking the law and entering the country, and Bush’s immigration plan emphasizes border security for the same reason. 
It’s easy for the candidates to point the finger at Obama for letting millions of undocumented immigrants into the country, but the United States has more resources deployed than ever before on the border and illegal crossings have dropped dramatically. A study published this week found that the population of undocumented immigrants has now fallen every year since 2008, and 2014 marked the first time in a decade that it dropped below 11 million. The total number of undocumented immigrants is lower now than it was when Obama took office.

“Every time we raise the minimum wage, the number of jobless people increases.”

Ben Carson said that remark during a GOP debate in November, but it’s a claim many of the candidates have made. Rubio has said raising the minimum wage would be “a disaster,” and Bush and Christie have said we need to leave the minimum wage to the private sector because of its potential to increase joblessness. 
But raising the federal minimum wage would not increase unemployment. In fact, states that have raised their minimum wages have experienced faster job growth. Boosting wages would also help the economy overall because it would reduce turnover and cut the costs that employers that pay low wages impose on taxpayers.


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

Which Group ?

Friday, January 29, 2016

Squabbling Over Crumbs

The Real Problem Is Congress (Not Who Is Dem. Nominee)

Senate political groups

House of Representatives political groups
Democrats (and Independents) are subjected to a lot of media attention about politics these days, and that's pretty normal for an election year -- especially when Democrats have two very good candidates. Hillary Clinton offers us progress in a wide range of progressive causes, a Bernie Sanders offers a political revolution. Both sound good to me, and as I've said several times before, I'll support and vote for either one that wins the Democratic nomination. I think both would make great presidents.

But there is a question that we need to ask ourselves. Could either Clinton or Sanders actually accomplish anything once elected? I'm not questioning the abilities of either, but there is a fly in the ointment -- the United States Congress. Currently, the Republicans have an 8 vote edge in the Senate, and a 59 vote edge in the House of Representatives. If Congress still looks like that after the 2016 election, a Clinton or Sanders presidency will look a whole lot like the recent Obama presidency -- where no progressive change could get through Congress (and only small changes could be done through executive orders). 

I can understand the passion being evidenced by Clinton and Sanders supporters, and I'm happy to see it. Democrats should be fired up by these two candidates, and they should vote their conscience in the primaries. But Clinton and Sanders are not the problem -- Congress is the problem, and we need to start paying a lot more attention to who gets elected to the next Congress. That matters more than whether it is Clinton or Sanders that is our next president.

There is some good news. Democrats have a very good chance to flip control of the Senate back to the Democrats. It won't be easy, but it is doable if Democrats turn out in large numbers and make sure they vote for down-ballot Democrats.

The real problem is the House of Representatives. Virtually no political pundits give Democrats much chance to flip the House. For instance, the respected Cook Political Report now thinks that only 33 of the 435 House seats are competitive. Democrats would have to win all 33 of those seats to even come close to taking control of the House (which is unlikely), and they would still be three seats short (because some of those competitive seats are already in Democratic hands).

Congress is very unpopular these days, with a job approval rating in the teens -- and one might think that is the prescription for an upheaval in the coming election. It would be, except for one thing -- gerrymandering. The Republicans were able to do some substantial gerrymandering after the 2010 census -- and that gerrymandering is why they were able to keep control of the House in the 2012 election, even though GOP House members received one million fewer votes than Democratic House members.  This creation of safe GOP seats through gerrymandering is sure to play a big part in the 2016 election (and probably 2020 also).

I'm not saying that flipping the House to Democratic control is impossible -- only that it will be very difficult to accomplish. But it is crucial if a Clinton or Sanders presidency is to accomplish anything at all. Democrats need to start paying as much attention to the congressional races as they currently are the presidential race. And they need to get busy helping down-ballot Democrats to be elected. 

I know there are some in both the Clinton and Sanders camps who are declaring they wouldn't vote for the other in the general election. That's sad and ridiculous. But I urge those people, even if you can't (or won't) vote for the presidential nominee, don't stay and home and refuse to vote at all. Go to the polls and vote! Even if you leave the presidential slot blank (or vote third party), it is very important that you vote for down-ballot Democrats. There is just too much at stake to sit out this coming election.


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

New Dem Polls: Iowa, N. Hampshire, S. Carolina, National

The charts above reflect the results of the two newest Iowa polls. They are:

The Monmouth University Poll -- done between January 23rd and 26th of a random sample of 504 likely Democratic caucus attendees, with a margin of error of 4.4 points.

The NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll -- done between January 24th and 26th of a random sample of 426 likely Democratic caucus attendees, with a margin of error of 4.7 points.

This NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll was done between January 17th and 23rd of a random sample of 568 likely New Hampshire voters, with a margin of error of 4.1 points.

This NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll was done between January 17th and 23rd of a random sample of 446 likely South Carolina Democratic voters, with a margin of error of 4.6 points.

This ABC News / Washington Post Poll was done between January 21st and 24th of a random national sample of 481 Democrats (and leaners), with a 5 point margin of error.

Journalist ?

Political Cartoon is by Rob Tornoe at Media Matters for America.

Texas Has The Lowest School Standards In The Nation

Educationnext 2015 grades for state education standards

Texas ranks dead last comparing STAAR and NAEP passing rates.