Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Yahweh Household

From the pages of The Far Left Side.

Republicans Vote To Continue Recession

If anyone needed any more proof that the Republicans are trying to damage the economy and make sure there is no economic recovery before the November elections, then the Senate Republicans provided that last Thursday. These Republicans, who like to pose as the defenders of small businesses, voted to continue to block a bill that would have provided expanded loan programs and tax breaks for small businesses.

The bill, favored by such Republican supporters as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business, needed 60 votes to break the Republican filibuster and allow a vote for passage. It got 58 votes -- all of them Democrats. All Republicans voted to block the bill, including Senator George Lemieux (R-Florida), who helped to write the bill. (Lemieux is pictured).

Why did the Republicans block this bill (which many of them and their supporters think is a good bill)? Because they know that most jobs are created in this country by small businesses. The bill would have created a $30 billion lending program in the Treasury Department just for small businesses, and given those small businesses another $12 billion in tax breaks. This bill could be a real boon for job creation in this country.

But the Republicans don't want new jobs to be created before November. They want the recession to continue unabated until the election, in the hopes that voters will blame Democrats for not improving the economy. They don't really have any new policies of their own (except for more tax breaks for their rich friends) and they know that an improving economy will probably help the Democrats in the coming election.

To make a long story short, the Republicans are pinning their election hopes on keeping the recession going through November. I hope all the millions of unemployed Americans and hurting small businesses remember these mean-spirited actions by the Republicans when they vote this Fall. These senators were sent to Washington to make things better for Americans -- not block an economic recovery in the hopes of political gain.

Number One Killer

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

Afghan War Gets Even Worse For U.S.

It looks like the war in Afghanistan just keeps getting worse for the United States and its coalition partners. In June, a total of 60 American soldiers died in Afghanistan. That was a record number of deaths for one month for the United States in the nine-year war. But it was a short-lived record.

Last Thursday three more U.S. soldiers died in an explosion in Afghanistan. That upped the death toll for United States soldiers to 63 for the month of July -- a new record. After nearly nine years of war a person would hope things would finally be getting better in this seemingly endless war, but if the death toll is any measure (and it certainly is), then things are definitely not getting better.

U.S. officials tried to put a good face on the terrible numbers, saying they had expected casualties to rise as they "ramped up the war against the Taliban". That just makes me wonder what they hell have they been doing for the last nine years, if not ramping up the war against the Taliban?

The truth is that our leaders learned nothing from the experience in Vietnam in the 60s and 70s. They evidently thought Vietnam was an anomaly that couldn't happen again. They were (and are) wrong. It may be the desert mountains of Afghanistan instead of the jungles of Vietnam, but it is exactly the same situation. How much longer will it be before our leaders (in both parties) realize this?

It's time to bring our soldiers home from Afghanistan (and Iraq) -- all of them.

Good News (For Vultures)

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Two-Thirds Of Americans Drink Alcohol

Did you ever wonder why there is such a proliferation of places to buy alcohol? Even in areas where the sale of alcohol is illegal, you can be sure there will be somewhere close to buy it (or an easily accessible black market). Gallup's recent poll provides us with the answer -- according to the survey two-thirds of all Americans (67%) drink beer, wine or hard liquor.

This number has gone up 3% since the start of the current recession in 2007, when it was 64%. But this is still not an all-time high. Back in 1976 through 1978 the percentage of drinkers was at 71% (which is the largest percentage since Gallup started polling on this question back in 1939).

All age groups and education levels show a majority of those who drink alcohol, and even regular church-goers show a majority of drinkers. Here are those numbers:

18 to 34..........72%
35 to 54..........72%
55 and older..........59%

Postgraduate education..........74%
College graduate..........79%
Some college..........70%
High school or less..........58%

Attend church weekly..........54%
Attend church at least monthly..........64%
Attend church seldom or never..........75%

The biggest surprise for me was the relationship between the amount of money a person makes and the likelihood they are a drinker. The survey clearly shows that the more money a person makes, the more likely they are to drink some form of alcohol. I would have figured the lowest paid would have a high percentage of drinkers (to try and forget their misfortune), but those who make less than $20,000 are actually the only group not to have a majority of drinkers. Maybe it's because they just can't afford it. Here are the numbers broken down by income level:

Over $75,000..........81%
$50,000 to $74,999..........78%
$30,000 to $49,999..........66%
$20,000 to $29,999..........51%
under $20,000..........46%

The survey shows that beer is definitely the most popular alcoholic drink (41%), while wine is second (32%) and hard liquor is third (21%). Among men, beer is the winner at 54% while wine comes in at 17%. That is just the opposite for women, who prefer wine at 48% to beer at 27%. Both groups have about the same percentage of those who drink hard liquor at 21-22%.

Is it any wonder that prohibition was a miserable failure?

Feeding The Pig

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

Friday, July 30, 2010

If It Walks Like A Duck . . .

From the satirical pages of

Fixing Social Security

For the last couple of years we have been hearing a lot of talk about how much trouble the social security program is in, and if you listen to the jerks in Congress (from both parties) you might think it's a problem that's nearly impossible to fix. The Republicans would like us to believe the only thing that can be done is to blow the program up and privatize it (leaving it at the mercy of the stock market).

The Democrats aren't much better in the silly ideas they are floating -- things like raising social security taxes on everyone, increasing the age of eligibility, or reducing social security benefits. You can tell these rich guys aren't going to have to depend on social security for their retirement, or they wouldn't be putting forward such stupid ideas. But most Americans will have to depend on social security -- especially those who've dedicated their lives to public service and those who've worked hard all their lives for low wages.

Fortunately, the American people are not as dumb as the politicians -- or as dumb as the politicians would like for them to be. The people know that a couple of good ideas that wouldn't hurt the program (or those who depend on it) can fix this mess. The reason the politicians of both parties don't like these simple ideas is because it would make them and their rich buddies pay more and receive less.

Here's what Public Policy Polling found when they surveyed Americans on several solutions to fixing social security. Note that only two ideas receive a clear majority approval (and this hasn't changed since 2005 when the numbers were virtually the same). The politicians should listen to what the people want (and worry less about what their rich buddies want).

Require high-income workers to pay SS taxes on all wages (67% approve)
Limit benefits for wealthy retirees (63% approve)
Reduce benefits of person retiring early (44% approve)
Reduce benefits for those currently under age 55 (39% approve)
Increase the age for full benefit eligibility (35% approve)
Increase SS taxes on all workers (34% approve)

The people have spoken. The wealthy don't need social security and the SS taxes should be paid on all income (and I think capital gains should be included as income). This would fix the system. Of course it probably won't happen because the rich (which includes most in Congress) are the people who run this country -- and they are determined to see that only the poor and middle class workers pay all taxes.

Trustworthy ?

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

Palin Not Doing Well Lately

I've said before on this blog that it looks like an endorsement from Sarah Palin is the kiss of death in a political race. Nearly every candidate that Palin has endorsed so far in this election year has wound up losing, and that is just in Republican primaries. If a Palin endorsement is that bad in the primaries, you can imagine how bad it will be in November.

It looks like that is still holding true. New Hampshire Republican candidate Kelly Ayotte was holding a nice lead over Paul Hodes in the Public Policy Polling survey last April. She led by a 47 to 40 percentage. But then she got Sarah Palin's endorsement. Now she only holds a 45% to 42% lead (within the margin of error of 3.26%). What makes this look like the Palin endorsement was the critical factor here is that Hodes (a Democrat) did not improve his numbers against any of the other possible Republican candidates -- just Ayotte.

Also, while Hodes' negativity rating has remained constant since April, Ayotte's has shot up from 24% in April to 39% after the Palin endorsement. It turns out that 51% of the New Hampshire voters say a Palin endorsement makes them less likely to support a candidate. When only moderates are considered that number goes up to 65% -- not good when you consider the largest segment of New Hampshire voters are moderate independents.

But you don't have to go to independents or Democrats to find people who don't believe in Sarah Palin. Palin is still being spoken of as a candidate for the presidency in 2012, and she has done nothing to discourage that talk. I think there's little doubt that she would like to run. But the Republicans in New Hampshire don't seem too excited about a Palin candidacy.

Public Policy Polling surveyed the state's Republicans about who they would support for the Republican nomination for president and Palin finished a poor fifth (sixth if you count the undecideds). Here's how it came out:

Mitt Romney..........31%
Newt Gingrich..........14%
Ron Paul..........13%
Mike Huckabee..........12%
Sarah Palin..........9%
Tim Pawlenty..........3%
Mitch Daniels..........1 %
Someone else..........5%

There's still more than a year to go until New Hampshire Republicans have to make that decision for real, but this shows Palin has a lot of work to do if she wants the nomination. No one has ever finished worse than second in New Hampshire and gone on to win the nomination.

Life Is Not Fair

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Rick Perry - Lies Of Omission

Rick Perry, governor of Texas, would like to be seen as a truth-teller. But he seems to have forgotten that there are two kinds of lying -- lying by commission and lying by omission. If you tell only a small part of the truth and leave the impression that you're telling the whole truth, that's just as much a lie as telling an outright falsehood. And Perry is very good at telling lies of omission (leaving out important facts).

A perfect example of this occurred a couple of days ago when Perry appeared on Bill Bennett's radio show. Answering a softball question from Bennett, Perry left the impression that the state of Texas has the "best health care in the country". Here is what was said:

BENNETT: Thirty seconds on the doctors. You’ve got the best health care in the country, now I think, don’t you? Because of your tort law?

PERRY: We do, yes. I spoke with the doctors yesterday in San Antonio. We’ve got, you know, three of the great health care — well not — three of the great health care regions. When you think about the medical center in Houston, there are more doctors, nurses, researchers go to work there than any other place in the world, every day. You got UT Southwestern up in University of Texas Health Sciences Center, San Antonio, Scott & White. I mean these fabulous health care facilities.

I can't argue the fact that Houston, Dallas and San Antonio have some very good doctors and hospitals, but that's a far cry from Texas having the best health care in the country. It would be much more accurate to say if a person has plenty of money or great health insurance and live close to a major metropolitan center they can receive good health care. Perry's statement leaves out some rather nasty facts.

In fact, it can be argued that if you don't have a lot of money or great health insurance or live in a sparsely populated area of the state, then for you Texas has the worst health care in the country (or at least close to that). Consider the following facts:

* About 26% of Texans don't have any kind of insurance coverage (national average is 15.4%) and many who do have insurance have inadequate coverage.
* About one out of every five children (20%) in Harris county (Houston) has no insurance coverage.
* Texas has more people without insurance coverage than there are people in 33 other states.
* Texas has four congressional districts that are among the bottom ten congressional districts in the nation in rate of people with insurance coverage (and thirteen districts in the bottom thirty).
* Texas has among the most restrictive Medicaid eligibility in the nation.
* Code Red Health Care Task Force says "The overall health status of Texans is poor, particularly in comparison to other states. . ."
* Code Red also says "The State of Texas has not taken full advantage of federal matching funds for health care to the uninsured."
* Code Red says "There is a significant shortage of health care professionals in Texas. . ."
* Code Red says "Care of people with mental illness remains a major unresolved problem for Texas."

Add this to the fact that some rural Texans don't live within 50 to 100 miles of a doctor or hospital and you have a much better picture of the reality of health care in Texas -- and it's not a pretty picture. Texas has a long way to go before it can legitimately claim to have the "best health care in the country", and with the Republicans in charge I doubt there'll be any improvement any time soon.

No Heavy Lifting For Senate

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

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Parental Advisory

Thoughtful hilarity from the website of Atheist Cartoons.

Bypassing The Electoral College

Ever since George Bush became president in 2000 by winning the most electoral votes, even though his opponent had the most votes overall, there have been people who want to see the electoral college done away with. These people believe the winner of the presidency should be the person who got the most votes nationwide on election day.

There are arguments to be made for both sides. The electoral college puts more power in the hands of the individual states, and the supporters of the electoral college ask a valid question -- aren't we supposed to be a collection of United States rather than simply a federal governmental system? Opponents of the electoral college simply believe that the person with the most votes should win in a democracy, regardless of how the voting broke down state by state.

The electoral college is provided for in the U.S. Constitution, so it cannot be discontinued without an amendment to that Constitution. And right now, there is little to no support in the U.S. Congress to pass such an amendment for ratification by the individual states. That would seem to say that, like it or not, we are stuck with the electoral college for a while.

But that may not be true. There is now a movement afoot to make the electoral college a moot point rather than doing away with it. Five states have passed a law that would give all of their electoral votes to the candidate that gets the most votes nationwide, regardless of which candidate got the most votes in that state. Those five states are Washington, Maryland, Hawaii, New Jersey and Illinois (although the laws would not go into effect until enough states have passed similar laws to make the idea work -- enough states to control a majority of the electoral college).

There may now be a sixth state with such a law. In the last few days the Massachusetts legislature passed a similar bill over Republican objections. The bill now goes to Governor Deval Patrick, who has said in the past that he supports this effort.

If enough states pass these kind of laws to control a majority of the electoral college, it will not do away with the electoral college (only a constitutional amendment could do that) but it would force the electoral college to elect the candidate who won the nationwide vote -- making the electoral college a rather useless and archaic institution (and probably signaling its demise).

Will the supporters of the popular vote electing a president succeed? It's too early to tell. It does have a better chance of succeeding than a constitutional amendment does though. For these laws to take effect there will only be enough state needed to make up 51% of the electoral college. For a constitutional amendment, the ratification of three-fourths of all the states would be needed.

There are currently 538 electors in the electoral college. The six states that have passed the majority vote laws have 73 of those electors, which means they need enough other states to provide another 197 electors (although the 2010 census could make some minor changes to the number of electors for some states). So there's still a long way to go to change our current system of electing a president. But it could happen.

There are those who say the current system is both constitutional and traditional and should not be changed. But that was also true of the selection of U.S. senators until the 17th amendment provided for their direct election by the voters. Very few people now would argue that was not a good change. Maybe someday we'll look back at the electoral college and wonder how we ever thought that was a fair way to elect a president.

I'm sort of torn on this issue. I do believe the president should be chosen by a vote of the people, but I would also hate to see the demise of the electoral college. What do you readers think? Should we do away with the electoral college?

(The above picture shows the number of electors apportioned to each state by the 2000 census.)

Where There's A Will . . .

Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Republican Votes In Two States

Once again we see evidence that Republicans, at least the ones here in Texas, think rules and laws are for everyone except themselves. We have a new state senator in Texas that has not only broken the law by committing a felony, but is also not eligible under state law for the office to which he was just elected.

Brian Douglas Birdwell was just sworn in as the state senator from Senate District 22 last month. He beat out three other candidates to replace Senator Kip Averitt, who resigned last Spring. The only problem with that is that a person cannot run for state senate in Texas until they have been a citizen of the state for five years. It has now become known that Birdwell voted in Virginia in 2006, which he could not have done unless he was considered a Virginia resident at that time (he moved to Texas for good in 2007 after several years of sharing time in both states).

Since he was a citizen of Virginia in 2006 that means he would not be eligible to run for the state senate in Texas until 2011 (actually 2012, since the next senate election after this year would be in 2012). His 2010 election is a violation of Texas campaign law. If the law is followed, and that is in doubt since all statewide leaders and statewide judges are Republicans, he would have to not only resign his position but he would also be unqualified to run for the office this November (and Republicans would have to replace him on the ballot).

But, as bad as that is, that is not even his most egregious crime. According to the records of both Texas and Virginia, Birdwell voted in the 2004 presidential election in both of those states. I don't know about Virginia law, but that's a third-degree felony in Texas.

In the last session of the state legislature, the Republicans pushed hard to pass a voter ID law, which they said would prevent voter fraud. The bill easily passed the Senate but was killed in the House. They have been unable to show that widespread fraud is occurring in Texas elections, but it is odd now that the biggest example of voter fraud comes not from Democrats or ordinary citizens, but from a Republican state senator.

I've often heard the phrase "vote early and vote often". It looks like Birdwell took that a little too seriously. He should be charged with violating the law and given a fair trial. He should also resign his position as a state senator.

One More Year - Really ?

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

New Republican Contract For America

Back in 1994 the Republican Party announced a "Contract for America" that laid out their plans if they were elected. The American people fell for this proposed contract and the Republicans were able to seize control of Congress. Sadly, the Republican policies were enacted and, after the election of George Bush, accelerated. And the effects on this country was disastrous.

Now in 2010 the Republicans want to take control of Congress again. But this time they are not announcing what they want to do. They are just trying to demonize the Democrats and their efforts to pull the country out of the recession caused by the Republican policies. This is because the Republicans have no new policies or "contract" to divulge. They are still clinging to the failed Republican/Bush policies of the past.

The Republicans know the American people do not want a return to the Bush policies of the past. That's why they are basing their hopes on slandering Democratic initiatives and hiding their own ideas (which would be great for the richest Americans and terrible for everyone else). But the Democrats are not going to let them get away with that. They have taken the policies the Republicans would like to enact and put them in the form of a new Republican contract. Here is that contract:


1. Repeal the Affordable Care Act (Health Insurance Reform)
2. Privatize Social Security (or phase it out altogether)
3. End Medicare as it presently exists
4. Extend Bush tax cuts for the rich
5. Repeal Wall Street Reform
6. Protect those responsible for Gulf oil spill (and future disasters)
7. Abolish the Department of Education
8. Abolish the Department of Energy
9. Abolish the Environmental Protection Agency
10. Repeal the 17th Amendment (providing direct election of senators)

All of the above have been proposed by the teabagger wing of the Republican Party and endorsed by at least some elected Republican officials. If you would like to see these insane proposals actually enacted, then you should vote Republican in November. But if you are smart enough to know that these things are protecting ordinary Americans from the greedy rich and corporations and must be protected, then you should vote Democratic this Fall.

Don't fall for the Republican lies and slanders. Don't let them take America backwards to the failed policies of the past.

Happy Days (For The Rich)

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

No Teabagger Racism ?

From the blog of Pavlovian Obeisance.

Billions Of Dollars Lost In Iraq By DOD

I posted a couple of weeks ago about how the United States is funding massive corruption in Afghanistan. Hundreds of millions of dollars is going to buy homes in Dubai for Afghani leaders and their friends and families, and millions more are going into their own bank accounts. In fact the corruption is so massive that the U.S. can't keep up with where all the money is going.

Some might think that Afghanistan is a special case, and things are different in Iraq. I wish that was the case, but it's not. It seems that billions of dollars have disappeared in Iraq also, and nobody has a clue where it has gone. I'm guessing that money has also gone to feed the corruption of the puppets we placed in leadership positions in that country (just like in Afghanistan).

The U.S. Department of Defense was given $9.1 billion in funds (supposedly from the Iraqi oil money) that was supposed to be used for the reconstruction effort in Iraq. How much of that money actually went into the reconstruction of Iraq? That's the problem -- nobody knows. On Monday the Special Inspector General For Iraq Reconstruction (SIGIR) released a report about how the money was spent.

SIGIR says that out of the $9.1 billion about 96% of it is unaccounted for (about $8.7 billion). The federal watchdog says the military cannot account for where the billions of dollars have gone, and "a lack of proper accounting makes it impossible to say exactly what happened to most of the money." I've heard of bad accounting procedures before, but to lose 96% of the money given them has to be some kind of record for incompetence.

We are leaving Iraq more corrupt and in much worse shape than it was when we started the illegal invasion and occupation of that country. In addition, the recently released documents show we are losing the war in Afghanistan and creating new enemies there every day by our attacks on the civilian population there. Why do we continue these two ridiculous losing propositions?

Isn't it time to stop sacrificing our soldiers in these Vietnam-like travesties? Isn't it time to withdraw our troops and bring them home?

Repeating History

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in the Miami Herald.

Repub Plan - Keep Economy In The Dumper

As we edge ever closer to the November elections it has become very clear just what the Republican plan is to win that election. They want to vote no on (and hopefully block) every Democratic initiative to improve the economy and create new jobs, in the hopes that the American people will blame the Democrats for the economy.

Why are they doing this? Because they have nothing new to offer in the way of solutions themselves. All they can come up with is a return to the old policies of George Bush -- the same policies that put the economy in such a mess. But the only thing they'll say out loud is that they want to extend the tax cuts for the rich (because even the Democrats are in favor of extending those cuts for everyone else).

But it looks like the American public may be catching on to the "vote no and then blame the Democrats" election tactics. While the public is not happy with either party in Congress, they give the Democrats slightly better marks than the Republicans. Here is what the newest Pew Research Center poll shows about the public's opinion of Congress:

Offers Solutions To Important Problems

Puts Country Ahead Of Politics

Works With Opposing Party To Get Things Done

Approve Of Congressional Leaders

But while the American people are not happy at all with the members of either party in Congress (and who can blame them since Republicans and Blue-dog Democrats have so far blocked much of the real reform necessary to help ordinary citizens), there is one thing they are sure of. They do NOT want a return to the policies of George Bush. Look at these figures:

What Would Do More To Fix The Economy?
Follow policies of George Bush..........29%
Follow policies of Barack Obama..........45%
Don't Know..........8%

And it should come as no surprise that the Republican tactic of wanting to extend the Bush tax cuts for the rich is just not playing well on Main Street (and why should it when they know the rich are doing great while everyone else suffers). A substantial majority of 58% would like to see the tax cuts eliminated for the rich. Here how those numbers break down:

What Should Happen To Bush Tax Cuts?
Extend all tax cuts..........30%
Repeal cuts for rich, extend the rest..........27%
Repeal all the tax cuts..........31%

Is it any wonder that Republicans would rather campaign on their obstructionism than their policies? If they had some new policies it might be different, but all they have is a replay of Bush's policies. While they were unhappy with Bush's unpopularity, they are still in love with his policies. They have yet to realize that it was those policies that made Bush so unpopular.

The American people want some answers to our current economic mess (which they still blame Bush for -- justifiably). They may not be thrilled with what Democrats have done so far on the economy, but they know a return to current Republican policies would be a disaster.

The Republicans are hoping for a resurgence in the November elections. But unless they come up with something new, I don't think it's going to happen.

No Secret

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Ignorance - Highest Form Of Teabaggerism

Another hilarious photo from the blog of Yellowdog Granny.

Conflicting Republican Policies

Two of the policies that Republicans love the most are a hatred of undocumented immigrants (and the wish to deport those here and prevent others from entering) and the denial of global climate change (because to admit it is real would force them to take action to rein in the excesses of their rich buddies in the oil, gas, coal and power-generating industries). This is why they are going to great lengths to prevent both immigration and energy reform.

But trying to push both of these policies at the same time is a little like trying to have a cake and eat it at the same time -- the two things are conflicting interests. Consider the following report published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences regarding the link between global climate change and illegal immigration.

According to the scientists, global climate change is going to keep getting steadily worse in the coming years as the level of the oceans rise and many countries will experience severe drought. One of the worst hit countries to experience these climate changes will be our neighbor to the south, Mexico. Many of the rural inhabitants of Mexico will no longer be able to support themselves as Mexican agriculture becomes untenable.

So what will these people do? They will do just as their fellow countrymen in the past have done. They will come to the United States to find a way to survive and feed their families. The scientists are predicting that in the next fifty years the U.S. will see an influx of possibly 6.7 million more undocumented immigrants (possibly even as much as 10% of the Mexican population).

Now I know some will claim we just have to close down the border with Mexico. That's a lot easier to say than it would be to do. It would take a massive amount of police, immigration officials and troops to even try to shut down the border between the two countries. Even then I'm not at all sure it could be done. The border covers thousands of miles, and that doesn't even consider our two enormous coastlines (and an even bigger and even easier to cross border with Canada).

Don't underestimate the persistence and ingenuity of desperate people. People will go to great lengths to feed, clothe and house their families -- regardless of what the laws are or how many people there are enforcing it. If the global climate change gets bad enough, we would have to turn this country into a police state to even begin to control the illegal immigration (and while that would do away with many of our freedoms, it probably wouldn't keep the immigrants out).

The only real solution is to stop denying the reality of global climate change and quickly take action to reduce our use of carbon-based fuels and reverse the dumping of greenhouse gases into our atmosphere. If we could slow down and then stop the climate change before it reaches a critical level (which it is fast approaching), then the situation in Mexico might not reach a level that would force millions of new immigrants over the border.

But to do that the Republicans would first have to admit that they are wrong. I'm not even sure that is possible. They have proved unable to admit their errors in the past. Just look at the disastrous policies of George Bush that wrecked the American economy. Republicans are still pushing those same policies even though it's obvious to any thinking person that those policies would still be disastrous to our feebly-recovering economy.

No, the Republicans are currently unable to admit they were (and are) wrong. That is why they must be prevented from returning to power -- at least until they develop new leadership that's willing to deal with the real world (and that could take a long time). For the time-being they will blissfully carry on, unable to even realize that their own policies are unrealistic and actually conflicting.

BP Kabob

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

Governor Perry's Shady Land Deal

For a while now Governor Rick Perry has been accusing his opponent, blue-dog conservative Democrat Bill White, of trying to hide some ethical lapses by not releasing his tax returns all the way back to when he worked for the federal government's Energy Department (although he has released those tax returns for the last few years). Perry has a minor point because while White tried to give the impression he hadn't made any money off his oil investments, it has come out that he made millions by selling off much of his oil stocks.

But now it looks like Perry may have some even more egregious ethical lapses of his own. While he has claimed that all of his business dealings have been open and above-board, it now looks like at least one land deal he was involved in could have actually been a political pay-off -- or at the very least an unreported gift of hundreds of thousands of dollars which would be a violation of Texas law.

The property in question is a half-acre lot in the resort community of Horseshoe Bay. The Dallas Morning News (DMN) has investigated the governor's purchase and sale of that property. They hired a nonpartisan property appraiser, and his appraisals show both the buying and selling prices to be way out of line. The property was worth a lot more than Perry paid for it and it was worth a lot less than he sold it for.

The development at Horseshoe Bay is owned by Doug Jaffe, whose family has been politically connected for many years. In 2000 Jaffe sold the plot of land to State Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), a friend and political ally of Governor Perry. Fraser turned around and sold the land to Perry for $300,000. The DMN appraiser said this was significantly below it's market value at that time, which was $450,000.

If this is true, and there's no reason to believe it's not true, then this would constitute a gift to the governor of $150,000 (ostensibly from Fraser, but more likely from Jaffe). The governor did not report this $150,000 gift as is required by state law (obviously thinking the gift could be hidden under the guise of a land deal).

Then in 2007 the governor sold the land to Alan Moffatt, a business partner and friend of Jaffe's, for $1.15 million. The DMN appraiser says the land was only worth about $800,000 at the time. Either Moffatt is a very bad businessman or this was another gift to Rick Perry -- a $350,000 gift, which he again failed to report as required by Texas law.

Had he paid and sold the land for its real value, Rick Perry could have realized a legitimate profit of $350,000 (since it's worth when he bought it was $450,000 and the worth when he sold it was $800,000). But instead, by buying the land below its value and selling it for an inflated price, he actually received a profit of $850,000. That means he received gifts totaling around $500,000. It leads me to wonder just what Jaffe and Moffatt received for the half-million dollars.

Ellen Miller, director of the Sunlight Foundation, says, "The man on the street on this would think that this is a series of deals that smell of special favors being created for elected officials to curry their favor."

She's right. That's exactly what I think.

Clearing The Air

Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies in The Record (New Jersey).

Monday, July 26, 2010

More "Wisdom" From Republican Jesus

From the blog Tea Party Jesus. The words were actually written by "christian" right-wing nut Selwyn Duke in his article for American Thinker. What a moron!

Kinky Endorses New Candidate For Governor

I don't know how I missed this major news story. It seems that Texas songwriter, singer, author, comic and ex-candidate Kinky Friedman has officially thrown his support behind a candidate for governor of Texas in the 2010 election. Kinky made his endorsement on the steps of the state capital on July 6th in front of the cameras.

Kinky said of his candidate, Woodrow, "Woodrow's authentic, doesn't overcomplicate things, has good instincts and the personal charisma Bill White's supporters are longing for. Plus, Woodrow is zero percent coyote, so he can definitely take on Rick Perry in a general election." The Kinkster went on to say, "Woodrow is not an incumbent, and he hasn't even been indicted yet, and I don't think I'm going to regret this endorsement one bit."

The candidate named Woodrow (pictured above with Kinky) is a formerly homeless dog whose owner has declared his candidacy in an effort to raise funds for Austin Pets Alive! ( a nonprofit organization dedicated to implementing "no kill" programs in Austin for homeless animals). Woodrow's owner said this gave her an opportunity to voice her distaste for politics and raise money for a good cause at the same time.

As an animal lover and founder of the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, Kinky found the issue (and the campaign) to be one close to his heart. His endorsement of Woodrow was filmed and will eventually be turned into a commercial for Austin Pets Alive!.

Woodrow's campaign slogan is a take-off on an old Kinky slogan from his first run for governor -- "How Ruff Could It Be?".

They Keep Trying

Political Cartoon is by Joel Pett in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Rangel Should Be Expelled From House

There is a political comedy playing itself out right now on Capital Hill -- and it's not a very funny one for Democrats or the American people. Last Thursday the House Ethics Committee announced they have drawn up charges of some kind of violations of House ethics against Rep Charles Rangel (D-New York). The exact nature of the charges are to be revealed in the coming week.

This is not the first time Rangel has been accused of ethical violations. Last March Rangel gave up his chairmanship of the very powerful House Ways and Means Committee after he was admonished by the Ethics Committee for accepting corporate gifts in violation of House rules (Trips to the Caribbean in 2007 and 2008). Now there are new charges pending.

House aides say negotiations are ongoing to head off the coming House trial on the new charges. Some Democrats want Rangel to admit his guilt and accept some kind of an admonishment. They think the trial on ethics charges will look bad for the Democratic Party with an election coming up. Rangel is resisting the negotiation efforts and says he wants to defend himself in the upcoming House trial.

I personally hope Rangel gets what he wants -- a fair trial. Because the negotiations are turning out to be a poor substitute for justice. If Rangel is guilty of the new charges, and I believe he probably is, then an admonishment is not enough of a punishment. He should be expelled from the House of Representatives.

If the Democrats didn't want a trial right before the election then they should have expelled him from the House back in March when the first case was decided (and they already knew other charges were pending before the Ethics Committee). They had their chance to take care of the matter and chose not to do that.

One of the main themes of the Democratic campaign back in 2008 was to clean up the corruption on Capital Hill. But to do that right they must punish the corruption no matter what party the offender is in. A Democrat should be punished just like a Republican would be because a corrupt Democrat is just as bad as a corrupt Republican.

By negotiating a deal which would allow Rangel to remain in the House of Representatives, the Democrats are giving the perception that they are trying to cover up or excuse the wrongdoing of a member of their party. Frankly, a trial happening right before the election doesn't make them look nearly as bad as these negotiations do.

The American people are fed up with corruption in the Congress. The Democrats (and Republicans) need to deal harshly with those found to be in violation of House ethics rules -- without regard to what party they are in.

Dumb Clucks

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. (Click on cartoon to make it larger)

India Reveals New $35 Computer

A couple of years ago the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) announced they had developed a prototype for a $100 laptop computer. Nicholas Negroponte, of the MIT Media Lab, created a nonprofit organization called One Laptop Per Child that was dedicated to getting these new cheaper computers into the hands of poor children (and put them on a more even level with the rest of the world).

But there were a couple of problems with that vision -- as wonderful as it was. First, it turned out that the computers actually cost closer to $200 than the originally estimated $100. Second, even the $100 price would have put the computers out of range of affordability for most of the world's poor children. The organization depended on donations or governments to purchase the computers and give them to poor children (usually through school systems). So far, this has only had limited success.

Now it looks like the government of India has done even better. They claim to have developed the prototype of a computer that will only cost $35 (see picture above). The computer was developed by students in IT colleges in India.

The new computer is a touch-screen tablet computer that operates off solar power (so it can be used even in homes and communities with electric power). It uses a Linux operating system and has no hard drive (using a memory card instead). And it has the capability to do word processing, web browsing and video conferencing.

The government says it is now looking for a company to manufacture the new low-cost computer. They also hope to get the price down to $20 or even less in the near future. If they can get the computer mass-produced at a price of $35 or less, this would be a real boon to poor children. It would make it much cheaper and easier for school systems to get the computers into the hands of their students. Even more important, that would lower the price enough so even the poor could save up enough to purchase the computer.

I hope they can get this done. It could be a giant step forward for much of the world's population.

Compassion Outsourced

Political Cartoon is by Bruce Beattie in the Daytona Beach News-Journal.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Contador Wins / Radio Shack Best Team

After a prologue and twenty individual stages covering 3,641.9 kilometers (about 2276 miles) and 91 hours 58 minutes 48 seconds of racing (for the winner - even more for everyone else), the 2010 Tour de France is over. It was an exciting and very close race this year and the overall winner for the third straight year is Spanish rider Alberto Contador (Astana).

The best team this year turned out to be the new American team Radio Shack. The best climber was Frenchman Anthony Charteau (Bouygues Telecom), and the top young rider was Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Saxo Bank).

The winner of the Green Jersey was not determined until the final few meters of this year's Tour. There was a sprint to the finish of stage 20 on the Champs-Elesees in Paris which was won by British rider Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia). But Italian Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre-Farnese) finished second and that gave him enough points to win the sprint championship. Julian Dean, New Zealand (Garmin-Transitions) was the stage 20 third place finisher.

Here are the top three finishers in each category:

YELLOW JERSEY (Best Overall Rider)
1. Alberto Contador, Spain (Astana
2. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Saxo Bank)
3. Denis Menchov, Russia (Rabobank)

GREEN JERSEY (Best Sprinter)
1. Alessandro Petacchi, Italy (Lampre-Farnese)
2. Mark Cavendish, Great Britain (HTC-Columbia)
3. Thor Hushovd, Norway (Cervelo)

1. Anthony Charteau, France (Bouygues Telecom)
2. Christophe Moreau, France (Caisse D'Epargne)
3. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Saxo Bank)

WHITE JERSEY (Best Young Rider)
1. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Saxo Bank)
2. Robert Gesink, Netherlands (Rabobank)
3. Roman Kreuziger, Czech Rep. (Liquigas-Doimo)

1. Radio Shack (United States)
2. Caisse D'Epargne (Spain)
3. Rabobank (Netherlands)

Foreign Policy

Found on the pages of Yellowdog Granny's blog.

Can Poverty Be Ended ?

Poverty is one of those social evils that has been around as long as civilization has been. It seems like there has always been a societal division into those who have and those who don't -- the haves and have-nots. And for just as long there has been a discussion on how to eliminate poverty (or whether to even try to eliminate it). Some people and some religions don't believe poverty can be eliminated, and say all that can be done is to offer a little help whenever possible.

Part of the discussion is whether government should do anything to try and alleviate or eliminate poverty. Some economic systems, such as unrestrained capitalism, would have the government do nothing. Those who believe in that system would put the entire burden of fighting poverty on individuals and religious institutions. This has proven to be a massive failure since unrestrained capitalism creates far more poverty than individuals and private aid organizations can handle.

Here in the United States we have developed a system of regulated capitalism (although the amount of regulation varies over time) and made it a government responsibility to to try and alleviate poverty. This has worked better than unrestrained capitalism in providing basic needs to those in poverty, but has done little to actually eliminate it -- mostly because the will of the people to spend enough to eliminate poverty has waxed and waned over time, but never "waxed" for long enough to do the job.

The economic system that has been the most successful in eliminating poverty has been democratic socialism (as exhibited in countries like Norway and Sweden). Although not perfect, this system has brought social justice and equality much closer to truly being realized, and has closed the gap between the haves and have-nots.

But whether it is regulated capitalism or democratic socialism, these systems have had little effect outside of the country in which they reside. Too often, while providing a measure of social justice for their own citizens, these countries continue to steal the wealth, resources and labor of third world countries and contribute to the serious and growing poverty that exists there. Their own wealth is much more important to them than making a real effort to eliminate world poverty, and because of that they continue to exacerbate that growing poverty problem.

The fact is that this earth that we all share has a finite amount of resources. In a fair and just world those resources would be shared equally by all peoples of the world, but human greed has prevented that. For some inexplicable reason we have decided it is OK for a few wealthy people to own far too much of the world's wealth and resources, and to exploit those who have too little of that wealth. This even seems to be OK with many religious people who claim to believe that we are our brother's keeper.

Can poverty be eliminated? I honestly don't know. What I do know is that we have yet to make a real effort to do so. To make a serious effort at eliminating poverty, those in the richer countries are going to have to be willing to share more and even alter their own lifestyles so they are not using more than their fair share of this earth's resources. So far, they have been unwilling to do that.

There is a documentary (and accompanying website) called The End of Poverty that has, through consultation with economic experts, come up with a reasonable way to attack the problem of world poverty. They are asking people to sign their petition and get on board with their efforts to address this problem. They also ask people to boycott corporations that will not endorse their 10-point plan to end poverty and to not vote for any politician who will not endorse and support at least half of those points. I have listed their 10-point plan below. What do you think of it? Are you willing to do your part?

1. The full equality between men and women in public as well as private areas of life, a worldwide minimum wage of $20 per day and the end of child labor under the age of 16 with the creation of a subsidy for scholarship.

2. The guarantee of shelter, healthcare, education, food and drinking water as basic human rights that must be provided free to all.

3. A total redistribution of idle lands to landless farmers and the imposition of a 50% cap on arable land devoted to products for export per country, with the creation of a worldwide subsidy for organic agriculture.

4. An end to private monopoly ownership over natural resources, with a minimum of 51% local communal ownership in corporations, which control such resources as well as the termination of intellectual property rights on pharmaceutical drugs.

5. The cancellation of third world debt with no reciprocal obligations attached and the payment of compensation to Third World countries for historical as well as ecological debt.

6. An obligation of total transparency for any corporation with more than 100 employees and a 1% tax on all benefits distributed to shareholders of corporations to create unemployment funds.

7. The termination of tax havens around the world as well as free flow of capital in developing countries.

8. The cancellation of taxes on labor and basic consumption, the creation of a 2% worldwide tax on property ownership (expect basic habitation for the poor) and the implementation of a global 0.5% flat tax on all financial transactions with a total prohibition of speculation on food products.

9. An equal voting for developing countries in international organizations such as IMF, World Bank, WTO, and the termination of veto right for the permanent members of the UN Security Counsel.

10. A commitment by industrialized countries to decrease carbon emission by 50% over a ten-year period as well as reducing by 25% each developed country’s consumption of natural resources.

Living Like Kings

Political Cartoon is by Bruce Plante in Tulsa World.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Stage 19 Time Trial Decides Yellow Jersey

After stage 18 the riders in this year's Tour de France had ridden for over 88 hours and covered 3,487 kilometers (about 2,092 miles), and yet the difference between the top two riders was only an incredibly small 8 seconds. Alberto Contador, Spain (Astana) held that tiny lead over Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Saxo Bank). That meant the Yellow Jersey would be decided in stage 19's 52 kilometer time trial (where the riders ride by themselves against the clock).

Schleck started the stage riding strong and at the first time check had reduced that 8 second lead down to only two seconds. But then Contador dug deep and seemed to find a higher gear. By the end of the race, he had beaten Schleck's time by 31 seconds and extended his overall lead to 39 seconds. This means Contador has again won the Tour's Yellow Jersey since, except for the battle for the Green Jersey, the stage 20 ride into Paris is largely ceremonial. Russian rider Denis Menchov (Rabobank) had a great time trial and now sits in 3rd place overall.

It also now looks like the American team, Radio Shack, has won the team championship in their first year in the Tour de France (allowing Lance Armstrong to mount the podium one more time before retiring). They extended their lead over Caisse D'Epargne from 8' 30" to 9' 15". The three strongest riders for Radio Shack were Christopher Horner, USA (10th place overall), Levi Leipheimer, USA (13th place overall) and Andreas Kloden, Germany (14th place overall). Armstrong finished in 23rd place overall in his last Tour de France.

Alessandro Petacchi, Italy (Lampre-Farnese) is the current holder of the Green Jersey and he could well wind up as this year's winner of that jersey. But that won't be finally decided until the stage 20 sprint through the streets of Paris. Stage 20 is a flat ride of 102.5 kilometers that starts in Longjumeau and finishes on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.

The stage 19 time trial was won by Fabian Cancellara, Switzerland (Saxo Bank). The second place finisher was Tony Martin, Germany (HTC-Columbia), while Bert Grabsch, Germany (HTC-Columbia) had the third best time in stage 19. Here are the current standings after stage 19:

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Leaders)
1. Alberto Contador, Spain (Astana)
2. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Saxo Bank).....0' 39"
3. Denis Menchov, Russia (Rabobank).....2' 01"
4. Samuel Sanchez, Spain (Euskaltel-Euskadi).....3' 40"
5. Jurgen Van Den Broeck, Belgium (Omega-Lotto).....6' 54"
6. Robert Gesink, Netherlands (Rabobank).....9' 41"
7. Ryder Hesjedal, Canada (Garmin-Transitions).....10' 15"
8. Joaquin Rodriguez Oliver, Spain (Katusha).....11' 37"
9. Roman Kreuziger, Czech Rep. (Liquigas-Doimo).....11' 54"
10. Christopher Horner, USA (Radio Shack).....12' 02"

GREEN JERSEY (Sprinters)
1. Alessandro Petacchi, Italy (Lampre-Farnese).....213 pts
2. Thor Hushovd, Norway (Cervelo).....203 pts
3. Mark Cavendish, Great Britain (HTC-Columbia).....197 pts
4. Jose Joaquin Rojas, Spain (Caisse D'Epargne).....167 pts
5. Robbie McEwen, Australia (Katusha).....162 pts
6. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Norway (Sky Pro).....152 pts

1. Anthony Charteau, France (Bouygues Telecom).....143 pts
2. Christophe Moreau, France (Caisse D'Epargne).....128 pts
3. Andy Schleck, Luxembourg (Saxo Bank).....116 pts

1. Radio Shack
2. Caisse D'Epargne.......9' 15"
3. Rabobank.......27' 49"
4. AG2R La Mondiale.......41' 10"
5. Omega-Lotto.......51' 01"