Sunday, June 25, 2017

Progress Is Made By Asking "Why"


Half Of Americans Support A Withdrawal From Afghanistan



The longest war in U.S. history drags on -- the war in Afghanistan. And there's no evidence that it will get any better anytime soon, or ever end. Donald Trump seems to have given up on it, and obviously has no ideas on how to win that war. We know this because he has turned the execution of the war to the Pentagon generals, including how many troops should be sent there. We can expect those generals to once again start ramping up the number of soldiers committed to that war -- in the vain hope that will do some good.

The sad fact is that, while our military is very good at fighting a conventional war, they are not good at trying to force another nation to accept the kind of government our political leaders want that nation to have. That has become very clear. We should have learned that lesson in Vietnam, but we didn't.Now we are stuck in an endless war that's accomplishing nothing.

And the American people are starting to realize that. A plurality of 37% think we are losing the Afghan War, while only 15% think we are winning it -- and the remaining people don't have a clue about it. Currently, about half of the country (49%) would support a plan to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan, while only 23% would oppose such a plan. I have to agree with the 49% -- it's time to get all of our troops out of that ridiculous war.

The charts above use information in a recent Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between June 18th and 20th of a random national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,277 registered voters), with a 3 point margin of error.

The Comparison

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

The American Public Wants Economic Sanctions On Russia (But Doesn't Think Donald Trump Does)




It is undeniable that Russia tried to interfere with our electoral process in 2016, and that this interference was directed by Putin himself. This was nothing less than an attack on our democracy, and some kind of response is necessary to punish Russia for that.

The Senate has done something. By an overwhelming vote, they decided to put new economic sanctions on Russia. That sanctions bill is now in the House of Representatives, but sadly, the Trump administration is working hard to defeat those new sanctions (or at least change the bill to give Trump the authority to remove Russian sanctions whenever he wishes). This is not a surprise, since Trump tried to remove the current sanctions against Russia almost immediately after taking office.

What does the American public think? As the charts above show, a majority of registered voters (62%) agrees with the Senate that new sanctions should be imposed against Russia. But a plurality (43%) think Trump will try to remove the sanctions against Russia, and a majority (51%) think it would be wrong for him to do that.

What's interesting is that a majority (69%) of Republicans want the new sanctions -- and while a small plurality (37%) don't think Trump will try to remove sanctions (which is denying reality, since he's already tried to do that), another small plurality (36%) think it would be wrong for Trump to do that. Trump's desire to remove sanctions against Russia not only goes against what most Americans think should happen, but it also goes against what a substantial portion of Republicans want.

The charts above were made using information in a new Morning Consult / Politico Poll -- done between June 15th and 19th of a random national sample of 2,051 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.

Help For The Rich

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at darrinbell.com.

No President Has Ever Lied As Much As Donald Trump


The chart above is from the New York Times. It shows the days in which Donald Trump has told a lie since taking office. They separate deliberate lies from "public falsehoods" (which were not true, but may not have been deliberate). I'm not sure there should be a difference, since the president has access to the knowledge acquired by all of the U.S. government -- and should know whether what he is saying (or tweeting) is true or not. And personally, I believe it is inexcusable for any president to lie to the citizens of this country.

It turns out that, by the NY Times count, Trump told a lie every day from the day he was sworn in until March 1st (about 40 days), and since then, has lied on at least 74 of 113 days. How can anyone now be expected to believe anything that Trump says?

Done In The Dark

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

AARP Speaks Out Against Senate Version Of Trumpcare

(Cartoon image is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.)

Last May, the AARP spoke out against the House's version of health care reform (Trumpcare). Now the Republicans in the Senate have come up with their own version of Trumpcare, and it's just as bad (if not worse). And the AARP, representing million of seniors, doesn't like it at all. Here is what they had to say:

“This new Senate bill was crafted in secrecy behind closed doors without a single hearing or open debate—and it shows. The Senate bill would hit millions of Americans with higher costs and result in less coverage for them. AARP is adamantly opposed to the Age Tax, which would allow insurance companies to charge older Americans five times more for coverage than everyone else while reducing tax credits that help make insurance more affordable.
“AARP is also deeply concerned that the Senate bill cuts Medicaid funding that would strip health coverage from millions of low-income and vulnerable Americans who depend on the coverage, including 17 million poor seniors and children and adults with disabilities. The proposed Medicaid cuts would leave millions, including our most vulnerable seniors, at risk of losing the care they need and erode seniors’ ability to live in their homes and communities.
“The Senate bill also cuts funding for Medicare which weakens the programs ability to pay benefits and leaves the door wide open to benefit cuts and Medicare vouchers. AARP has long opposed proposals that cut benefits or weaken Medicare.
“As we did with all 435 Members of the House of Representatives, AARP will also hold all 100 Senators accountable for their votes on this harmful health care bill. Our members care deeply about their health care and have told us repeatedly that they want to know where their elected officials stand. We strongly urge the Senate to reject this bill.”

Getting Screwed

Political Cartoon is by Paul Fell at paulfellcartoons.com.

Science Vs. Faith


Saturday, June 24, 2017

Privatization


GOP Supports Trump - But No One Else Does


This chart is from the new NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll -- done between June 17th and 20th of a random national sample of 900 adults (including 765 registered voters) with a 3.27 point margin of error.

It shows that Trump still has a negative net job approval rating of 15 points with the general public (40% approving and 55% disapproving). He has the approval of those in his own party (82%), but only 35% among Independents and 6% among Democrats.

This won't matter to Republicans in overwhelmingly safe districts in 2018. But it should worry the Republicans in the districts where they won by only a single digit (the purple districts). It means they won't be helped by clinging to the coattails of Trump. In fact, being closely allied with Trump would hurt them with Independents and Democrats (who together make up the majority in purple districts).

A Plot To Harm

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

Americans Don't Agree With GOP About Medicaid


The Republicans in the Senate are still scheduled to vote on their trillion dollar tax cut for the rich next week, which they have cleverly disguised as a health care bill. But calling the bill a health care bill doesn't make it one -- especially since it would result in millions fewer having health insurance, tens of thousands more dying from lack of insurance, and higher insurance premiums for the consumers and businesses that can still afford to buy it. It is a tax cut bill for the rich that stomps all over millions of Americans to pay for itself.

One of the ways it provides to pay for those tax cuts for the rich is to severely cut funding for Medicaid. The House's tax cut bill would cut Medicaid by $834 billion. The Senate version, to be voted on next week, would make far deeper cuts (although the biggest cuts wouldn't come until after the next election).

I think the Republicans thought it would be easy to pick on Medicaid, and no one would care. After all, isn't Medicaid just for the poor (who have no political power, and can easily be demonized)? Well, no. Medicaid does cover many poor people, but it also does more. It covers children, people with disabilities, and those in nursing homes -- altogether about 20% of the U.S. population. If an American is not on Medicaid, then he/she probably knows someone who is helped by Medicaid.

The Republicans have misjudged the American people. Rather than be opposed to Medicaid, about 74% actually support the program (including 61% of Republicans, 76% of Independents, and 84% of Democrats). People also think that Medicaid works well for those who need it. About 61% say that (including 52% of Republicans, 62% of Independents, and 68% of Democrats) -- and this is true in both the states that expanded Medicaid and the states that didn't.

The congressional Republicans may claim they are "fixing" our health care system by passing this tax cut bill, but they need to be careful. Most Americans don't see it that way. They don't think you can fix a health care system by denying health care to millions of citizens -- and they are right. If the GOP insists on passing this bill, it could easily come back to bite them on the butt in November of 2018.

These charts are from the Kaiser Family Foundation Poll -- the newest one being done between June 14th and 19th of a random national sample of 1,208 adults, with a 3 point margin of error.




The Scythe Is A Giveaway

Political Cartoon is by Tim Eagan at cagle.com.

Russian Hacking Was Widespread - Why Does Trump Deny It

(The cartoon image above is by Lalo Alcaraz.)

The truth is that the Russians attacked the United States electoral system in 2016. And it was not just a few hackers on their own -- but a concerted effort by the Russian government under the direction of Putin himself. This is fact, and our government knows it (both our intelligence agencies and our Congress). That's why the Senate voted nearly unanimously (only 2 senators voted "no") to put new economic sanctions on Russia.

The bill for the new sanctions in now in the House. But guess who opposes it, and is working hard to defeat it. DONALD TRUMP! The Trump administration opposes a part of the sanctions bill that says the president could not alter the sanctions without first notifying Congress. In short, he wants the ability to remove those sanctions without telling Congress (or anyone else). We already know that he tried to remove the current sanctions against Russia immediately after taking office, but was stopped by Congress.

Why is Trump doing this? Does he not care about the security of our democracy? Or does he owe the Russian government for their efforts to get him elected? There's no "smoking gun" evidence that Trump colluded with the Russian government to subvert our electoral process -- YET. But Trump's actions (calling the hacking a "fake story", trying to unilaterally remove sanctions, etc.) certainly makes it look like there may be a quid pro quo involved (an agreement between Trump and Putin).

The hacking was actually more widespread than most people know. This is part of an article in Time magazine by Massimo Calabresi on how serious the Russian hacking was:

The hacking of state and local election databases in 2016 was more extensive than previously reported, including at least one successful attempt to alter voter information, and the theft of thousands of voter records that contain private information like partial Social Security numbers, current and former officials tell TIME.
In one case, investigators found there had been a manipulation of voter data in a county database but the alterations were discovered and rectified, two sources familiar with the matter tell TIME. Investigators have not identified whether the hackers in that case were Russian agents.
The fact that private data was stolen from states is separately providing investigators a previously unreported line of inquiry in the probes into Russian attempts to influence the election. In Illinois, more than 90% of the nearly 90,000 records stolen by Russian state actors contained drivers license numbers, and a quarter contained the last four digits of voters’ Social Security numbers, according to Ken Menzel, the General Counsel of the State Board of Elections.
Congressional investigators are probing whether any of this stolen private information made its way to the Trump campaign, two sources familiar with the investigations tell TIME. . . .
The House and Senate Intelligence committees held hearings on June 22 to highlight the ongoing vulnerability of the U.S. election systems. “I’m deeply concerned,” said North Carolina Republican Senator Richard Burr who chairs the Senate Intelligence Committee, that “we could be here in two or four years talking about a much worse crisis.”
Cyber-security officials testifying at the Senate hearing acknowledged for the first time the extent of the Russian effort to interfere with the election. Twenty-one states saw such intrusions last year, a senior official from the Department of Homeland Security, Jeanette Manfra, said. None of the intrusions affected the vote count itself, all the officials testified.
That has not reassured some Hill leaders. “There’s no evidence they were able to affect the counting within the machines,” says the top Democrat on the House Intelligence committee, Congressman Adam Schiff of California. But, he added, “the effect on the election is quite a different matter.”
The Russian efforts against state and local databases were so widespread that top Obama administration cyber-security officials assumed that by Election Day Moscow’s agents had probed all 50 states. “At first it was one state, then three, then five, then a dozen,” says Anthony Ferrante, a former FBI cybersecurity official and member of the White House team charged with preparedness and response to the cyber intrusion. At that point, says Michael Daniel, who led the White House effort to secure the vote against the Russian intrusions, “We had to assume that they actually tried to at least rattle the doorknobs on all 50, and we just happened to find them in a few of them."
Many hackers, including state-sponsored ones, use automated programs to target hundreds or even thousands of computers to check for vulnerabilities. But confirming intrusions is hard. As far as officials have been able to determine, the number of actual successful intrusions, where Russian agents gained sufficient access to attempt to alter, delete or download any information, was “less than a dozen,” current and former officials say. But that wasn’t the only worry.
“In addition to the threat to the vote we were also very concerned about the public confidence in the integrity of the electoral system,” says Ferrante.
Special Counsel Robert Mueller is investigating whether any laws were broken in relation to the Russian attack. The Congressional intelligence probes also seek to determine the nature and scope of the Russian espionage operation in order to protect future elections.
“The integrity of the entire system is in question,” says Bahar, “So you need the system to push back and find out what happened and why, so it never happens again.”

Thoroughbred ?

Political Cartoon is by Milt Priggee at miltpriggee.com.

P.T.S.D.


Friday, June 23, 2017

There Is Just No proof


Senate GOP Releases Its "Health" Bill - And It's Really Bad

(Cartoon image is by Bill Day at cagle.com.)

When the House of Representatives passed their "repeal and replace" of Obamacare -- the AHCA -- many Republican senators said it was dead on arrival. They were not telling the truth.

Majority Leader McConnell and a few of his closest henchmen took that House bill behind closed doors -- and they resuscitated it. They brought it back to life, and then they made it even worse. The House bill would have taken insurance away from at least 23 million Americans -- primarily through huge cuts to Medicaid, and severely cutting insurance subsidies. That wasn't good enough for the hard-hearted Senate Republicans. The cut the number of people who can get a subsidy by lowering eligibility from 400% of poverty level to 350%. Then they made even deeper cuts to Medicaid.

That wasn't enough though. They then gave states the right to waive the benefits required in insurance policies sold to the public. This means that we'll again see cheap policies sold that won't cover most of the things people need insurance for (emergency rooms, long-term care, drug/alcohol treatment, medical care without a cap, etc). Those policies will be cheaper -- util the consumer tries to use them.

For those who want to keep their essential benefits, this GOP bill will insure their premiums continue to go up. They'll go up because Americans will no longer be required to have health insurance, and employers will no longer be required to provide insurance for their employees. This means there will be less people with insurance -- and insurance companies will have to raise premium prices to compensate for that. They'll also have to raise premiums because this bill does nothing to control the fast-rising cost of medical care in the United States.

But this was never about providing decent health care for Americans anyway. The Republicans don't believe health care is a right. They think it's just another product to be sold to those who can afford it. This was a tax cut for the rich bill -- not a health care bill. The taxes that funded Obamacare were all repealed, and some of the rich will even get a refund of those taxes. And the Republicans didn't mind throwing 80% of Americans under the bus to achieve those tax cuts for the rich (their real constituency).

I could go on with my rant, but I think President Obama probably said it better with his Facebook post. He wrote:

Our politics are divided. They have been for a long time. And while I know that division makes it difficult to listen to Americans with whom we disagree, that’s what we need to do today.
I recognize that repealing and replacing the Affordable Care Act has become a core tenet of the Republican Party. Still, I hope that our Senators, many of whom I know well, step back and measure what’s really at stake, and consider that the rationale for action, on health care or any other issue, must be something more than simply undoing something that Democrats did. 
We didn’t fight for the Affordable Care Act for more than a year in the public square for any personal or political gain – we fought for it because we knew it would save lives, prevent financial misery, and ultimately set this country we love on a better, healthier course. 
Nor did we fight for it alone. Thousands upon thousands of Americans, including Republicans, threw themselves into that collective effort, not for political reasons, but for intensely personal ones – a sick child, a parent lost to cancer, the memory of medical bills that threatened to derail their dreams.
And you made a difference. For the first time, more than ninety percent of Americans know the security of health insurance. Health care costs, while still rising, have been rising at the slowest pace in fifty years. Women can’t be charged more for their insurance, young adults can stay on their parents’ plan until they turn 26, contraceptive care and preventive care are now free. Paying more, or being denied insurance altogether due to a preexisting condition – we made that a thing of the past. 
We did these things together. So many of you made that change possible.
At the same time, I was careful to say again and again that while the Affordable Care Act represented a significant step forward for America, it was not perfect, nor could it be the end of our efforts – and that if Republicans could put together a plan that is demonstrably better than the improvements we made to our health care system, that covers as many people at less cost, I would gladly and publicly support it. 
That remains true. So I still hope that there are enough Republicans in Congress who remember that public service is not about sport or notching a political win, that there’s a reason we all chose to serve in the first place, and that hopefully, it’s to make people’s lives better, not worse. 
But right now, after eight years, the legislation rushed through the House and the Senate without public hearings or debate would do the opposite. It would raise costs, reduce coverage, roll back protections, and ruin Medicaid as we know it. That’s not my opinion, but rather the conclusion of all objective analyses, from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, which found that 23 million Americans would lose insurance, to America’s doctors, nurses, and hospitals on the front lines of our health care system.
The Senate bill, unveiled today, is not a health care bill. It’s a massive transfer of wealth from middle-class and poor families to the richest people in America. It hands enormous tax cuts to the rich and to the drug and insurance industries, paid for by cutting health care for everybody else. Those with private insurance will experience higher premiums and higher deductibles, with lower tax credits to help working families cover the costs, even as their plans might no longer cover pregnancy, mental health care, or expensive prescriptions. Discrimination based on pre-existing conditions could become the norm again. Millions of families will lose coverage entirely. 
Simply put, if there’s a chance you might get sick, get old, or start a family – this bill will do you harm. And small tweaks over the course of the next couple weeks, under the guise of making these bills easier to stomach, cannot change the fundamental meanness at the core of this legislation.
I hope our Senators ask themselves – what will happen to the Americans grappling with opioid addiction who suddenly lose their coverage? What will happen to pregnant mothers, children with disabilities, poor adults and seniors who need long-term care once they can no longer count on Medicaid? What will happen if you have a medical emergency when insurance companies are once again allowed to exclude the benefits you need, send you unlimited bills, or set unaffordable deductibles? What impossible choices will working parents be forced to make if their child’s cancer treatment costs them more than their life savings?
To put the American people through that pain – while giving billionaires and corporations a massive tax cut in return – that’s tough to fathom. But it’s what’s at stake right now. So it remains my fervent hope that we step back and try to deliver on what the American people need. 
That might take some time and compromise between Democrats and Republicans. But I believe that’s what people want to see. I believe it would demonstrate the kind of leadership that appeals to Americans across party lines. And I believe that it’s possible – if you are willing to make a difference again. If you’re willing to call your members of Congress. If you are willing to visit their offices. If you are willing to speak out, let them and the country know, in very real terms, what this means for you and your family.
After all, this debate has always been about something bigger than politics. It’s about the character of our country – who we are, and who we aspire to be. And that’s always worth fighting for.

Empty Hat

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson in Roll Call.

Public Thinks Congress Is Only For The Rich


It's just a fact that a majority of the people elected to Congress are millionaires or billionaires. One reason for that is how expensive it is to run in even a House race (and more expensive to run in a Senate race). For example, in the recent House special election to fill Georgia's 6th District seat, about $50 million was spent (about $23 million for the Democratic candidate and $27 million for the Republican candidate).

That has the public thinking it's not affordable for an ordinary citizen to run for Congress. A candidate must either be rich, or they must sell out to the rich for donations -- and neither option benefits the ordinary citizen (who wants a candidate that will work for the working and middle classes).

That's the opinion of an overwhelming majority of the public in a new Rasmussen Poll -- done on June 20th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a 3 point margin of error.

At Risk

Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies at jimmymargulies.com.

Trump Says There Are NO Tapes Of His Talk With Comey


We now know that Donald Trump asked FBI Director James Comey to swear loyalty to him, and to drop the investigation into Trump aide (and NSA Director) Mike Flynn. Comey did neither, and was fired by Donald Trump.

Trump also inferred that Comey was lying about their meeting. He did this by saying Comey should hope there were no tapes of that meeting. That was a mistake, because Congress, the media, and many in the American public demanded to hear those tapes. For weeks, Trump refused to say whether there were tapes or not. For his part, Comey told Congress that he hoped there were tapes, because they would verify what he had said.

Now he says (through tweets, as he normally does) that there are no tapes. It turns out that Trump was just trying to obfuscate and mislead the public by claiming tapes might exist. He was just trying to smear a person who told the truth about him -- just like he has done to others who had the audacity to tell the truth.

It's just one more example showing Trump is the most dishonest and least trustworthy person to ever occupy the White House.

One more thought? Is Trump lying about the existence of tapes? We know he has told hundreds of lies since being sworn in. Is this just one more -- designed to keep tapes out of the hands of Congress and the media?

The only thing we really know is that there are no tapes showing Trump was telling the truth and Comey was lying. If there were, Trump would have released them long ago. His narcissism would have compelled him to do so.

Mountain Of Hypocrisy

Political Cartoon is by Darrin Bell at darrinbell.com.

Trump / Pruitt Purge The EPA Of All Its Scientists

 (These caricatures of Donald Trump and Scott Pruitt are by DonkeyHotey.)

Donald Trump has said he would protect the environment, but that is just another of his many lies.

We know that because of his withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on global warming, his executive orders repealing Obama's clean air and water efforts, and his appointment of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) -- a man with a history of opposing EPA actions. While Trump mouths environmental platitudes, it is obvious that what he really wants to do is let corporate polluters off the hook. Now we find that its gotten even worse.

Trump and Pruitt are actively removing all the scientists from the EPA -- those people who tell the truth about pollution and global climate change. They will be replaced with lobbyists and sycophants who mirror Trump's own corporate polluter friendly views.

Here is what Mark Sumner at Daily Kos has written about the purge of scientists:

Scott Pruitt had already moved to replace much of the scientific review boards at the EPA with industry lobbyists. 
The Environmental Protection Agency has dismissed at least five members of a major scientific review board, the latest signal of what critics call a campaign by the Trump administration to shrink the agency’s regulatory reach by reducing the role of academic research.
 
And with that minor test run over, Pruitt has moved on to a wholesale purge of scientists from his supposedly scientific agency.
The Environmental Protection Agency has given notice to dozens of scientists that they will not be renewed in their roles in advising the agency, continuing a scientific shake-up that has already triggered resignations and charges from some researchers that the administration is politicizing the agency.
With climate change data hidden or destroyed, Pruitt directly working to raise funds for Republicans, and actions that go beyond accepting climate change to denying basic science, it’s no doubt inconvenient to have people around who know what the hell they’re doing. So that is being remedied. Pronto. And just in case any of those scientists were thinking about saying something Pruitt wouldn’t like, he made sure that wouldn’t happen—at least not on EPA grounds.
None of the subcommittees will have a chair or vice chair, and all committee meetings scheduled for late summer and fall have been cancelled.
Pruitt’s actions completely wipes out the existing Board of Scientific Counselors. It means the whole board can now be reappointed, filled with industry lobbyists and science deniers, and the EPA can then go forward on the basis that “its scientific advisers” tell it that carbon dioxide is good for plantsonly God can change the climate, and Donald Trump is nature’s bestie.
President Trump has directed Mr. Pruitt to radically remake the E.P.A., pushing for deep cuts in its budget — including a 40 percent reduction for its main scientific branch — and instructing him to roll back major Obama-era regulations on climate change and clean water protection. 
No clean water. No clean air. Certainly no scientists.
It seems pretty clear that neither Trump nor Pruitt understand what “protection” means. They certainly don’t understand “environmental.”

Not Harmless



Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.

Result Of GOP War On Unions


Thursday, June 22, 2017

Generation Of Idiots


Most Americans (Except Republicans) See Discrimination





The top two charts show the support for same-sex marriages is now pretty strong in this country -- especially among younger Americans (which means it will continue to grow stronger as time passes). Most people have accepted the Supreme Court's decision that states cannot ban those marriages (even on religious grounds).

But there is still an argument by some fundamentalist religious people that a business should be able to refuse service to someone in the LGBT community because of religious reasons. Most Americans oppose this, but sadly, about half of Republicans don't -- and Republicans control our government right now. That means we will probably still see this argument go on as the GOP officials try to pander to their bigoted base.

These charts are from the Public Religion Research Institute, and uses figures from the American Values Atlas which questioned 40,509 American adults between May 2016 and January 2017.

The same is true of discrimination against Blacks. While most Americans think there is still substantial discrimination against Blacks, the Republicans don't. That means we shouldn't expect to have any help from our government in helping to solve this serious problem in the next few years.


Trump Agenda

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Public Says The Country Is More Divided Under Trump


During the campaign, Donald Trump claimed to be a uniter and said he would unite the country. It hasn't worked out that way. In fact, a substantial majority of Americans (59%) say the country is more divided under Trump, while only 10% say it is more united. Another 28% say it is about the same as before he was elected.

These numbers are from a new Rasmussen Poll -- done on June 18th and 19th of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a 3 point margin of error.

The Secret GOP Plan

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

Gerrymandering Is Unfair - Can Supreme Court Stop It ?


Gerrymandering is when the dominant political in a state draws district lines in such a way as to maximize the number of safe seats for them while minimizing the number of seats the other party can win. The image above (from act.represent.us) shows some of the extreme gerrymanders that currently exist. The Republicans have been particularly effective in gerrymandering, but it is a practice engaged in by both political parties. And it is unfair to the voters, regardless of which party does it. The Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case to determine the constitutionality of political gerrymandering.

The following is an editorial about gerrymandering by the editorial board of the traditionally conservative Dallas Morning News. I am far from being a conservative, but I agree with what they have written.

We are pleased that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a partisan gerrymandering with the potential to reshape American politics. 
Courts have rejected district election maps on grounds they were drawn outlandishly to disadvantage minority voters. However, the court has never turned down a map drawn to give an advantage to a political party.  That's what makes this case so consequential. Political parties routinely draw maps that either concentrate or dilute the other party's  voters to create safe districts for their own incumbents. 
The case before the court is Gill v. Whitford,  which grew out of election results in 2010 that gave Republicans control of Wisconsin's government. GOP lawmakers immediately drew a map for the state assembly that helped Republicans turn razor-close statewide vote totals into lopsided legislative majorities.
Since then, a three-judge federal district court panel ruled that Republicans overstepped, concluding that the map "was designed to make it more difficult for Democrats, compared to Republicans, to translate their votes into seats." The district court agreed with the challengers that the map was drawn for partisan reasons and resulted in "wasted votes." 

After every U.S. census, district lines are redrawn to reflect changes in population. As districts gain or lose residents, new boundaries are supposed to make sure each district has about the same number of people, is compact, includes people with common interests and gives voters an equal say. 
Partisan-inspired redistricting violates most of these standards. Boundaries are overtly manipulated to maximize the number of districts favorable to one party while spreading as many of the voters that might back the other party into remaining districts where votes have minimal impact. 
The case before the Supreme Court has the potential for serious repercussions in Texas. We have long decried gerrymandering shenanigans here.  Few state legislative and congressional races are considered competitive, which is why many incumbents run unopposed election after election and challengers face a steep climb. As a result, voters often don't have meaningful choices. 
In addition, a trial is scheduled next month over accusations of racial gerrymandering in Texas House and congressional political maps. A federal court has already ruled that GOP lawmakers drew boundaries in 2011 to intentionally discriminate against minority voters.
We'd like to see Texas lawmakers establish an independent commission to reduce redistricting self-dealing on both racial and partisan grounds. They haven't.  

Racial gerrymandering has long been seen as unconstitutional. We welcome the Supreme Court's scrutiny on political gerrymandering, too. No one should be happy with a process that effectively allows elected representatives to pick their constituents and to be less responsive to the concerns of political minorities in their districts. 

Democracy fails when politicians rig the system before the first vote is cast. Democracy works when people have choices.

Hoax

Political Cartoon is by Matt Boss at thenib.com.

Inequality Is The GOP Goal


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

The "Secret" GOP Health Bill


Dems Should Be Buoyed By Georgia / S. Carolina Results





I'm sure there are many Democrats disappointed by the results in the 6th Congressional District of Georgia. They had hoped to pull off a miraculous victory, and the political polls had them thinking it could be done. But the Democratic candidate fell short, and that district returned a Republican to Congress.

But this is not a time for Republicans to celebrate, and it's not a time for Democrats to feel down and give up. Let's recap what has happened in the four House special elections this year. Yes, the Democrats lost all four of them -- but they came much closer in all of them than anyone had expected.

In Kansas, the Democrats cut a 31.1 point margin for the Republicans in 2016 down to only 6.8 points.

In Montana, the Democrats cut a 15.8 point margin for Republicans in 2016 down to only 6.1 points.

In South Carolina, the Democrats cut a 20.5 point margin for Republicans in 2016 down to only 3.2 points.

In Georgia, the Democrats cut a 23.4 point margin for Republicans in 2016 down to only 5.2 points.

And remember, these were supposed to be "safe" districts for Republicans -- districts in which they traditionally won with large double-digit margins. Those large double-digit margins disappeared, and those "safe" seats all turned out to be competitive.

This should scare the hell out of Republicans, and it should energize Democrats across the nation. There are dozens of Republicans currently occupying purple seats -- seats they won by a much smaller margin in 2016. If the Democrats do as well in those purple districts as they did in these four bright red districts, then they could win a whole lot of them in 2018 -- and possibly even take over the majority in the House of Representatives.

Take heart Democrats -- the tide of public opinion is turning your way.