Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Stage Is Too Big


Interesting Financial Numbers In Texas U.S. Senate Race


Here's a little more evidence that the Texas race for the U.S. Senate could be closer than some people think. We already know that Texas Democrats are enthused about voting this year, and that Ted Cruz is not very popular in Texas (running on GOP ticket is what's saving him so far). Now we see the campaign finance results for the first six weeks of 2018.

From January 1st through February 14th, Democrat Beto O'Rourke received $2.3 million in campaign donations -- far more than Republican Ted Cruz, who only raised $800,000. During that same period, O'Rourke spent $2 million and Cruz spent $1.2 million.

But perhaps most interesting is that the Democrat is not that far behind Cruz in cash on hand, even though Cruz started with a fat campaign chest. O'Rourke has $4.9 million and Cruz has $6 million.

If the campaign giving for O'Rourke continues to exceed expectations (and there's no reason why it wouldn't), then he will be in better position financially than any other Democratic senate candidate in quite a while. Combine that with his personality and his being a great campaigner, and O'Rourke could run Cruz a close race -- and maybe even win (if Democrats turn out their vote in November).

I'm getting cautiously excited about this race.

Dirty And Greedy

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

Trump Orders His Military Parade Be Held On Veterans Day

(Cartoon image is by Dicky Neely at Laguna Madre Blues.)

Donald Trump is jealous of the world's autocrats. They get to have a military parade to show off their power and control, while American presidents have not done that (and that offends Trump's narcissism). He asked the military to arrange a parade in Washington (DC) to allow him to review our military power.

The problem Trump has is that the American public doesn't want his military parade (see chart below). Majorities of all voters, both genders, all ages, and all races/ethnicities all are opposed to the parade. They don't want to copy tyrants like Kim Jong-Un, and think such a parade doesn't display strength (but weakness). Everyone knows the U.S. has the strongest military in the world, and showing it off in a parade doesn't enhance that view.

Trump doesn't care what Americans want though. He has ordered his military to have one anyway. But to disguise his narcissistic desire, he has set the date for the parade as November 11th -- Veterans Day. He will try to pass of his vulgar display of narcissistic power as a tribute to veterans.

Americans don't oppose parades honoring our veterans (and neither do I). But those parades should actually be made up mainly of veterans and tributes to veterans -- not missiles, tanks, and other weapons of war.

Trump has already shown us he doesn't like diplomacy, and indeed, doesn't have the intelligence and sensitivity to effectively engage in it. Trump is a bully, and his military parade is just another of his efforts to bully the world into cooperating with what he wants. It won't work. It'll just make this country look petty and ridiculous.

The chart below is from a recent Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between February 16th and 19th of a random national sample of 1,249 voters, with a 3.4 point margin of error.


The Big Parade

Political Cartoon is by Signe Wilkinson at philly.com.

The Sociopathy Of Evangelical Christians In The U.S.

(Cartoon image is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.)

American evangelicals seem to have decided that political power is more important than religious principles. They have sacrificed their beliefs in the hope of gaining to power to discriminate against others and pass laws to force their religion on others. Here is how Tim Rymel describes this phenomenon:

Since Evangelical Christianity began infiltrating politics, officially in the late 1970s, there has been a disturbing trend to limit or remove rights from those who don’t meet the conservative idea of an American. Many of these initiatives come in the form of “religious freedom” laws, which empower discrimination, while other legislation targets immigrants who believe differently. The result has been a sharp division in American culture, and the redefinition of Christian theology.
Evangelical speaker, author, and university professor, Tony Campolo, said Christianity was redefined in the mid-70s by positions of “pro-life” and opposing gay marriage. “Suddenly theology fell to the background,” he said. And somewhere in the middle of all the change, Evangelical Christianity crossed the line of faith and belief to hatred and abuse. Those who cruelly implement the actions of their faith are oblivious to the destruction they cause to their religion, or the people their beliefs impact. Is it fair to call it sociopathic?
Psychology Today listed sixteen characteristics of sociopathic behaviors, which include: Untruthfulness and insincerity, superficial charm and good intelligence, lack of remorse or shame, poor judgment and failure to learn by experience, pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love, unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations, specific loss of insight, and general poverty in major affective reactions (in other words, appropriate emotional responses).
We see examples of these kinds of behaviors in church leaders and followers. Franklin Graham, for example, stated that immigration was “not a Bible issue.” His stand fits well with his conservative politics and vocal support of Donald Trump, but his callousness toward immigrants and those seeking asylum in the United States goes against everything he says he believes (Lev. 19:33-34, Mark 12:30-31). Yet, Graham doesn’t see one bit of irony between his political stance and his religious belief. Nor does he seem to notice the horrific casualties in war-torn countries these immigrants are desperately trying to flee.
Pastor Roger Jimenez of Verity Baptist Church in Sacramento said after the Orlando, Florida terrorist attack on a gay nightclub, “The tragedy is that more of them didn’t die. The tragedy is — I’m kind of upset that he didn’t finish the job!” This “minister of God” showed no compassion for the families of the men and women who died. He appeared incapable of laying aside his religious beliefs for even a moment of shared human connection to a tragic event.
And recently, Kim Higginbotham, a minister’s wife and teacher with a master’s degree in special education, according to her website, wrote a public blog called “Giving Your Child to the Devil.” She claimed, “Being a disciple of Jesus demands our relationship to him be greater than our relationship to our own family, even our own children.” She listed Matthew 10:37 as justification, which says, “Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”
In a self-righteous, self-aggrandizing, martyr’s rant, she claims her son turned his back on God, and she was left with no other option but to abandon him. It turns out her son is gay and – it turns out – the day the diatribe was posted was his wedding day. Sharon Hambrick, a Christian writer, posted a wonderful response to this mom.
But mostly, rather than calling these people out for sociopathic behavior fellow Christians agree. Many of the comments on Higginbotham’s website say, “So sorry for your loss,” or, “Praying for you and your son.”
It’s common for us to avoid cognitive dissonance, when our beliefs dictate one thing, but our experiences show us something else is true. We call this living in denial, and we all do it on one level or another. But when we choose our “truth” while coldly watching a fellow human being suffer, we’ve crossed a line of mental health.
The 2016 election demonstrated an especially high level of insincerity, shamelessness, poor judgment and pathological egocentricity among Christian evangelicals. James Dobson, who once said of Bill Clinton, “Character does matter. You can’t run a family, let alone a country without it. How foolish to believe that a person who lacks honesty and moral integrity is qualified to lead a nation and the world,” and then said of Donald Trump, “I’m not under any illusions that he is an outstanding moral example. It’s a cliché but true: We are electing a commander-in-chief, not a theologian-in-chief.”
The evangelical Christian message is loud and clear. They care for no one but themselves. Their devotion is to the version of Christianity they have created, which calls for ruthless abandonment of immigrants, women, children – even their own – and anyone else who doesn’t fall inline with their message. Social justice, which is mentioned in Bible verses over two thousand times, has been replaced with hardline political ideology. Principle over people. Indifference over involvement. Judgment over generosity.
Every generation redefines what it means to be, or belong to a religious group. Religious ideologies, interpretations, and doctrines are fluid. But whatever it is, or whatever it becomes, is made by the people who belong to the religion and what they collectively decide to make it.

Already Overloaded

Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller at hellertoon.com.

The Essence Of Christianity


Saturday, February 24, 2018

A Very Good Question


Texas Dems Lead Primary Early Voting In Texas After 3 Days


If you had any doubt that Democrats are enthusiastic about this year's election, Texas Democrats are answering those doubts. After 3 days of early voting, Democrats lead the Republicans in turnout for early voting in the party primaries -- and Democrats are far ahead of their turnout numbers for 2014 (the last off-year election primary).

While the Republican number of voters after three days is very similar to 2014, the Democratic numbers are not. 43,895 more Democrats have voted this year than did in 2014. That's 5,953 more Democrats that have voted in the first three days than Republicans.

We'll have to see if this enthusiasm among Democrats continues, and whether they can duplicate it in November, but I see no reason why it wouldn't happen -- and if it does, then the statewide races in Texas could be much closer than prognosticators are predicting (especially in the Senate race, where Cruz is not really very popular).

The numbers in the chart above are from the office of the Texas Secretary of State.

Vomiting Hate

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart at cagle.com.

Public Is Not On Board With Trump's Arming Of Teachers





The top chart represents a sad fact about mass shootings in America today. About 53% say they are not surprised to hear about a new mass shooting in this country. That's not surprising, since there's a mass shooting every day in this country (on average).

The public is not happy with Donald Trump's reaction to the latest mass shooting (in Parkland, Florida). Only 33% of the general public, 32% of Independents, and 7% of Democrats approve of Trump's handling of the shooting. Only Republicans approve (69%).

Trump has mentioned strengthening background checks, but doesn't seem passionate about it -- probably because the NRA opposes it. I doubt he will continue to push it.

The one thing he does seem passionate about is arming Teachers (and other school employees). He claims those people would be able to stop a mass shooter (even though that has never happened in this country). He also says that will prevent those shooters from entering a school because they'll be afraid of being shot. That's even more nonsensical, since most mass shooters are suicidal (and if others don't kill them, they kill themselves).

Arming school employees is a crazy idea. It won't save lives -- but will probably cause more loss of life. The American public knows that, and most are opposed to Trump's idea. It turns out that 50% of the public opposes the idea, while 44% approve of it.

The public does want to see stricter gun laws though -- with 65% of the general public, 63% of Independents, and 85% of Democrats wanting that. Only 43% of Republicans want stricter laws.

Another interesting part of the poll concerned the NRA. It seems they are losing ground with the American public. A plurality of 46% say they have too much influence on our politics.

These charts are from a new CBS News / SSRS Poll -- done between February 20th and 22nd of a random national sample of 1,012 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.


Russian Ties

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

About Half Of Americans Say Russian Affected 2016 Election


Donald Trump has emphatically denied that the Russians interfered with the 2016 presidential election, and still will not admit that (even going so far as to say he believes Putin's denial of interference). I can understand why he's doing that. He thinks admitting Russia interfered in the election would be tantamount to admitting that he did not win the election fairly.

He has tried his best to convince Americans that the charges of Russian interference are just a hoax perpetrated by Democrats to justify their loss in 2016. He's not getting Americans to accept that idea though (except for his die-hard trumpistas). The idea that Russia did interfere is accepted by most people today, and the idea that the interference did affect the outcome of the election continues to grow.

Currently, about half of the population (49%) now think Russian interference affected the outcome of the election, while a similar number (48%) don't think it did. That percentage saying it likely affected the election is significantly larger now than it was a few weeks ago.

The chart above reflects the results of a new Rasmussen Poll -- done on February 19th and 20th of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a margin of error of 3 points.

Tiny

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.

"Young Adults With Passion Can Change The World"

(Photo of teens from Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School is from NBC News.)

Dan Rather is exactly right in this comment from his Facebook page:

We can have a debate about gun control. But to all those "adults" who mock or lie about the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High (and the waves of sympathetic students across the nation), to all those who rain vitriol down on children's heartbreak and nascent activism, to all those who spread outrageous conspiracy theories meant to dismiss those who demand to be heard, there is no place for you in civil society. 
I know why the reactionary forces who have cynically played the status quo on our gun culture to their political and economic power are fanning the flames of these outrages. They know, as I do, that young adults with passion can change the world. I saw that in Birmingham, Alabama when African American children faced the fire hoses and dogs in the march for racial justice. I saw it in the jungle hell of Vietnam and the streets of America when young soldiers and protesters asked the chilling question: what are we fighting and dying for? I saw it in Europe where waves of youthful activism shattered the Iron Curtain. 
The voice of a child is often a clarion call to action. In their purity lies passion and courage. They are our future. And when they roar, they will be heard and shake the political status quo of our nation.

Crazy Idea

Political cartoon is by Marian Kamensky at cagle.com.

It's Not Rocket Science


Friday, February 23, 2018

Narrow Mind


Will Trump Will Actually Do Anything About Gun Violence ?

(Caricature of Donald Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

Donald Trump held a "listening session" on Wednesday to hear from people angry about the mass shootings in this country (although sadly, he had to make himself a note to remember to be empathetic to the victims). I doubt he was really listening though, because he seemed to have already made up his mind about what he wants to do (or says he wants to do).

Trump made three suggestions -- change the age to buy an assault weapon, make background checks better, and arm teachers and school employees. I doubt he was serious about any of these suggestions, and considering how many times he has lied during his first year in office (more than 2,000 times), I'm not going to hold my breath until any change is made.

The first suggestion is silly. Making people wait until they are 21 to buy a military-style assault weapon will accomplish nothing. These weapons need to be outlawed -- for people of any age. They have no purpose except to kill large numbers of people as fast as possible. It won't pass though, because the NRA opposes it, and they own most congressional Republicans.

The same goes for background checks. We do need background checks for anyone trying to buy a firearm (or is being given a firearm), and about 90% of the public (including most rank-and-file NRA members) support that. But the NRA leadership opposes it -- and both Trump and Congress are not about to do anything the NRA leaders don't want. This was just a BS lie from Trump (like his promise to protect DACA Dreamers, his promise to give most tax cuts to the middle class, and his promise to provide great health insurance for all Americans). He didn't mean it, and we won't see it.

He might actually try to implement his third suggestion -- to arm teachers and other school employees. That's something the NRA would support, and congressional Republicans could pat themselves on the back for and believe they have accomplished something. But it's a bad idea. I can see some teacher losing his/her cool and shooting some student (probably unarmed) because they "feared for their life".

Trump said the shooters would avoid schools if they thought teachers had guns, because he said the shooters are cowards and don't want to be shot. That's stupid. Almost all of the shooters EXPECT to be killed (and kill themselves if others don't do it). More guns won't change this. It will just make our schools more dangerous for everyone (teachers and students).

Arming teachers won't do much to stop mass shootings, because mass shootings happen everywhere (concerts, theaters, parking lots, churches, etc.). Are we going to arm everyone everywhere? The right would like us to think that more guns means more safety, but that's simply not true. More guns just means more opportunity for nuts to commit mass shootings.

Trump, and right-wingers, also want to talk about mental illness and video games. Those are not the primary causes of mass shootings. Other developed nations have mental illness and the same proliferation of video games, but do not have the horror of mass shootings that the United States has (about one every day). Why not? We let our nuts have any kind of weapon and as much ammunition they want -- other countries don't.

We do need to take action to stop both the number of mass shootings and the number of gun deaths in this country -- and while we may not be able to completely eliminate them, we could significantly reduce them (just as other countries have done). And we could do it without violating our Constitution. But don't expect Trump to do anything about it.

If you think Trump will do anything, then you have been conned by him again.

Signs

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz.

1st Day Of Texas Early Voting Shows Enthusiasm Of Dems


Texas early voting has started. The charts I show here use information from the office of the Texas Secretary of State. It shows the early voting totals for the 15 largest counties in the state. Those counties have about 66% of the state's registered voters. And the results for the first day of early voting should encourage Democrats.

Note (in the chart above) that the first day total of early voters is up from the last off-year election of 2014. In 2014, 73,375 people cast their vote. This year, 96,404 people cast a ballot on the first day. The increase is due to an increase in the number of Democrats casting an early vote. The number of Republicans remained fairly constant (48,898 in 2014 and 47,029 in 2018). But the number of Democrats more than doubled on first day voting (from 23,377 in 2014 to 49,375 in 2018).

This does not necessarily mean the Democrats are going to outvote Republicans statewide, and it doesn't assure a Democratic victory in November. But it does show that Democratics are fired up and enthusiastic about voting this year -- and that's a good thing.

The chart below shows the number of voters for each party on the first day in each of the 15 largest counties.


Puppeteer

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

Another Poll Shows Public Wants Stricter Gun Laws








These charts use information in a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between February 18th and 20th of a random national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,308 registered voters), with a margin of error of 3.1 points.

Donald Trump, congressional Republicans, and the NRA may not think anything should be done about the level of gun violence in this country, but the general public certainly does. They want stricter laws concerning guns -- especially who can buy those guns.

Maps

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

10 Charts Showing The Depth Of Public Dislike Of Trump











The charts reflect information in a new Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between February 16th and 19th of a random national sample of 1,249 voters, with a margin of error of 3.4 points.

I don't think commentary is needed. The charts speak for themselves.

"Pardon Me"

Political Cartoon is by Tom Tales in The Washington Post.

Not Good Enough ?