Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Rich Men Need. . .

At least 20% of America's children are fed using Food Stamps, but the Republicans want to cut that program -- so they can give more tax cuts to the rich. Where is their conscience? This picture by Armchair Patriots was found on the blog of Red State Progressive.

Romney Running Scared - Changes Strategy

Back in the 2008 Republican primary Mitt Romney tried to be the candidate that appealed to all segments of the Republican party -- a candidate with many different personas. He failed because he didn't realize that the party was already moving far to the right, and there was only one persona that the majority of Republican voters wanted to see -- that of a far right-wing fundamentalist.

Romney learned his lesson from his 2008 failure. As he entered the race for the Republican nomination this year he has done his best to re-invent himself as a teabagging right-winger. He subdued his religion, and provided many mea culpas over his rather moderate term as governor of Massachusetts (especially regarding the health care plan he signed during his term). But most teabagger Republicans are just not buying his conversion. They still viewed him as having all the personas in the picture above.

Even though the establishment Republicans supported him because they viewed him as their best hope to beat President Obama, the far right-wing teabaggers have climbed on other bandwagons -- for candidates like Michele Bachmann, Ron Paul, and Herman Cain. It became very obvious that he might not do as well in the early Iowa caucuses as he did in 2008. It was looking like he would probably lose those caucuses to Bachmann (who was both a teabagger and from a neighboring state) and possibly even Ron Paul.

So the Romney campaign decided to skip the Iowa caucuses and bet the farm on a strong showing in New Hampshire. He decided that a second or third place finish in Iowa, bolstered by a big win in New Hampshire, could put him in a good position to carry his campaign to other states. He could play-off not winning Iowa by claiming he didn't really compete there.

It was a bit risky, but it could have worked. But things have changed. Texas Governor Rick Perry has jumped into the race, and poll after poll has shown he has snatched the race lead away from Romney. All of a sudden it's looking like Romney might not get that second or third place finish in Iowa. If he ignores the state he could finish as low as fifth place (which is possible since he finished fifth in the Iowa straw poll, which he also ignored).

Finishing that low in Iowa certainly wouldn't help him in New Hampshire, and if he failed to win big in New Hampshire after being an "also-ran" in Iowa his campaign could be over pretty quickly -- especially since he is also polling poorly in South Carolina which would quickly follow New Hampshire. In just the last couple of weeks Romney has gone from being the leader to possibly being in trouble. The "skip Iowa" strategy is no longer viable.

It's starting to look like the Romney campaign is now running a little scared (and he should be). They are changing their strategy in a couple of ways. Up until now Romney has not really attacked his Republican opponents, preferring to look "presidential" by remaining above the fray. But it is now being reported that he is preparing to attack Rick Perry. He is going to try and scare voters with Perry's views on Social Security, Medicare, and immigration.

It is also being reported that Romney is no longer considering skipping Iowa. Bill Kristol reported on Fox News that he has talked with people in the Romney campaign and that they are now going to make a push in Iowa.

The simple fact is that Romney had to change his strategy. He can't act like a leader now because he is no longer the leader. Now he must scratch and claw like the other candidates. It's a matter of survival.

If Only. . .

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

More Mean-Spirited Nonsense From GOP

It's pretty obvious to anyone that the Republicans love rich people. When the rich bankers were in trouble during the Bush administration they came up with $700 billion to bail them out. They had help from Democrats on that, but their giveaways to the rich didn't end there. They helped Bush give an unneeded tax cut to the rich that ballooned the deficit, and then held small tax cuts for other Americans hostage to force a continuation of the huge tax cuts for the rich. They are now protecting subsidies for corporations (the same corporations that are making record profits) and demanding more tax cuts for the rich.

But it's only the rich that Republicans are willing to help. They have shown they want to hurt the elderly by abolishing Medicare and cutting benefits for Social Security. They would hurt children by abolishing the Dept. of Education and cutting Food Stamps (which feed over 20% of America's children). They would hurt workers by wanting to abolish work safety rules, unions,  and unemployment insurance, while continuing to encourage the outsourcing of American jobs. They would hurt the sick by repealing health care reform and destroying Medicaid. And they would hurt all Americans by abolishing the EPA and allowing corporations  to pollute our water and air.

Those things were already known, but now it seems like the Republicans want to remove any doubt anyone might have about their hatred for the common man. They have now decided that the government can't afford to help disaster victims (even though they think there's plenty of money for give-aways to the rich). Some, like Ron Paul, want to abolish FEMA altogether. Others want to hold disaster victims hostage so they can force further budget cuts.

Eric Cantor (R-Virginia) and other House Republican leaders are threatening to withhold disaster funding for the recent victims of Hurricane Irene unless Democrats agree to further budget cuts. And what do they want to cut. First they want to cut FEMA funding by 6% overall. Then they want to slash funding to equip and train first responders by 40% (on top of the 19% they have already cut).

These Republicans must have agreed with President Bush that "Brownie" did "a heck of a job" with the delayed and disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, because the kind of cuts they are proposing would help to insure that the federal response to future disasters would also be late and ineffective.

Surely they don't think they have the support of the American people for this kind of mean-spirited action. Americans have never begrudged helping their fellow citizens who are victims of a natural (or man-made) disaster. They know that they are not only their brother's keeper, but they may need that same kind of help some day. There are all sorts of disasters and no part of the country is immune from all of them.

And it gets even crazier. They also want to cut the funding for hurricane hunter flights from $29 million to $17 million (about 40%). This would make it much harder for the National Weather Service to predict the ferocity and direction of an impending hurricane in the future. The nutty part of this proposal is the fact that this modest expenditure actually saves America much more money than it costs. Think Progress says:

Since it costs $1 million per coastal mile for evacuation and preparation when a storm approaches, every mile that is not evacuated yields substantial savings for taxpayers. Estimates put the savings due to monitoring flights at $100-$150 million per storm, far outstripping the $29 million budget dedicated to the hurricane hunters.

Once again I am left to wonder, why do the Republicans hate ordinary Americans -- and common sense?

Real Torture

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

Approval Dropping For Romney, Paul & Bachmann

The Gallup organization has released their latest Positive Intensity Scores (PIS) for the Republican presidential field (the score is determined by subtracting the disapproval number from the approval number). For three of the candidates it's not good news. Michele Bachmann has seen an 11 point drop in her PIS, while Ron Paul has seen a 10 point drop and Mitt Romney has seen a 9 point drop. It shows that their popularity is dropping.

Here are how the numbers look, for both the highest and current PIS scores for each candidate:









And here is the percentage of Republicans familiar with each candidate (name recognition):

Mitt Romney..........88%
Michele Bachmann..........85%
Newt Gingrich..........85%
Ron Paul..........78%
Rick Perry..........75%
Rick Santorum..........52%
Herman Cain..........50%
Jon Huntsman..........43%

Each candidate was rated by about 1,200 Republicans and Republican-leaning independents between August 15th and August 28th, with a 3 point margin of error.

The Dictator's New Clothes

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

Why We Should Still Despise Dick Cheney

Former vice-president and noted war criminal Dick Cheney has written a book. He doesn't need the money, so he must be trying to rehabilitate his own image -- a formidable task indeed. Frankly, I think this pathetic excuse for a human being deserves nothing but to be despised by all Americans. He and his puppet (George Bush) caused serious damage to this country in the eight years they were in office -- damage it could take many years to correct.

Over at the website of The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf has written an excellent article called "Remembering Why Americans Loathe Dick Cheney". It's very good and I recommend you go over and read it all. Here are his eight reasons to loathe Cheney:


Then he gives a great conclusion:

Dick Cheney was a self-aggrandizing criminal who used his knowledge as a Washington insider to subvert both informed public debate about matters of war and peace and to manipulate presidential decisionmaking, sometimes in ways that angered even George W. Bush.

After his early years of public service, he capitalized on connections he made while being paid by taxpayers to earn tens of millions of dollars presiding over Halliburton. While there, he did business with corrupt Arab autocrats, including some in countries that were enemies of the United States. Upon returning to government, he advanced a theory of the executive that is at odds with the intentions of the founders, successfully encouraged the federal government to illegally spy on innocent Americans, passed on to the public false information about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, and became directly complicit in a regime of torture for which he should be in jail.

Good riddance.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Military Spending

Republican right-wingers are claiming that we can't cut our military budget or we would be in danger of falling behind China. The above chart shows just how ridiculous that kind of talk is. We could cut our military budget in half and we would still be spending several times as much as China. We need to stop listening to the right-wing lies.

Fukushima Is Another Chernobyl

When the disaster struck the nuclear power plant at Fukushima in Japan a while back, there were many who were saying it was another Chernobyl -- a bad enough nuclear disaster to make the area uninhabitable for decades, if not longer. The Japanese government vehemently denied that, and many nuclear "experts" in this country backed them up. They said it wasn't that bad, and the Japanese would be able to control the situation with only a minimum of radioactivity escaping -- well within the limits of what would harm humans.

Since that time Japanese government officials has slowly, bit by bit, upgraded the seriousness of the damage caused and its possible effects. Now it looks like the Japanese government is preparing to admit that the area around the plant (towns within 12 miles of the plant) have been affected by radiation at high enough levels to make them too dangerous to live in -- perhaps for many decades. Here is what the New York Times in reporting:

The formal announcement, expected from the government in coming days, would be the first official recognition that the March accident could force the long-term depopulation of communities near the plant, an eventuality that scientists and some officials have been warning about for months. Lawmakers said over the weekend — and major newspapers reported Monday — that Prime Minister Naoto Kan was planning to visit Fukushima Prefecture, where the plant is, as early as Saturday to break the news directly to residents. The affected communities are all within 12 miles of the plant, an area that was evacuated immediately after the accident.
The government is expected to tell many of these residents that they will not be permitted to return to their homes for an indefinite period. It will also begin drawing up plans for compensating them by, among other things, renting their now uninhabitable land. While it is unclear if the government would specify how long these living restrictions would remain in place, news reports indicated it could be decades. That has been the case for areas around the Chernobyl plant in Ukraine after its 1986 accident.

It looks like the doomsayers were right. Fukushima has become a second Chernobyl.

The Romney Solution

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at

Is Bird Flu Coming Back ?

The first round of avain influenza (H5N1), commonly called the "bird flu", hit a few years ago (in about 2005-2006). It caused quite a scare since about 60% of humans known to have contrated it have died, and since it is carried by birds there is little way to contain it in one place. Fortunately it did not develop a human strain that could easily be transmitted from human to human, and therefore did not develop into a true pandemic (although there have been 331 deaths from 565 confirmed cases since 2003).

But it has not gone away. And in a certain group of countries it remained endemic (Bangladesh, China, Vietnam, Egypt, India, and Indonesia). But the incidence of bird flu has been growing in those countries, and has now spread to other countries thought to be free of it (Israel, Palestine, Bulgaria, Rumania, Nepal, and Mongolia). It has reached the point where the World Health Organization is starting to worry that there will be a new (and probably world-wide) outbreak of the disease.

There have been 800 cases reported in 2010-2011 so far, and health experts think there could be a serious outbreak during the Fall and Winter of 2011-2012. And the virus has mutated. The vaccines developed a few years ago do not have an effect on the mutated virus. Another scary thought is that the mutated virus may spread among humans easier this time than it did last time.

This is just the kind of possibly bad news we did not need in this time of recession, unemployment, tornados, earthquakes, hurricanes, and drought. All we need is a new pandemic to pile on top of our many other problems.

The "Men In White" Are Waiting

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

State Rep. Won't Run For Re-Election In 2012

The Amarillo Globe New's Austin reporter is reporting that State Rep. Rick Hardcastle (R-Vernon) has decided that he will not seek re-election to his newly re-configured District 68 seat -- even though most people figured he would have an easy time being re-elected to the Texas House.

Hardcastle said, "When I first ran for state representative, my plan was to serve for about 10 years, if my constituency allowed me. By the end of my current term, I will have served 14 years. Nancy and I figured we've served in public office long enough." The move comes as a surprise, and so far there are no Republican candidates that have expressed an interest in the seat -- although I'm sure that will quickly change.

There is talk that former State Rep. Joe Heflin, a Democrat from Crosby county, might be interested in running for the position. Heflin (pictured) had served several terms as the District 85 representative, but was defeated by Jim Landtroop (R-Plainview) in 2010. Heflin had said he would not run against Hardcastle because they were friends, but now that Hardcastle won't be running that impediment has been removed.

I don't know if Heflin will run or not, but I do think it would probably be very hard for him to win a District 68 race. For one thing, he lost his last race by a pretty overwhelming margin (38% to 62%) and that was a district where he was well-known. He is not nearly as well-known in most of the counties in District 68 (which his home county is new to). And most of those counties have a recent history of voting heavily for Republicans.

Also, in 2010 the State Ethics Commission ordered Heflin to pay a $1,200 fine for some campaign finance violations. Heflin claimed they were "minor infractions". Even if they were minor, they obviously had an effect on the 2010 election -- and there is little doubt this would be brought up by a new opponent in 2012. This could be devastating for a candidate running in a district where the residents of most counties don't know him (or his record).

I would love to see a Democrat win in any of the West Texas or Panhandle districts, but I wouldn't bet two cents on Heflin's chances in the newly-drawn District 68.

It's A Myth !

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

Monday, August 29, 2011

Battle Hymn Of The Republicans

This cartoon contains a lot of truth about the Republican Party. The author, carolsim at the site, says Abraham Lincoln would find today's Republican Party unrecognizable and distasteful. I agree.

Voters Angry At Washington Politicians

If the new survey from the respected Pew Research Center shows anything, it's that American voters are disgusted with their Washington politicians -- of both parties. The Democrats are viewed as being weak and ineffectual (even by a majority of their own party), and the Republicans are seen to be putting their own right-wing ideology above doing what's needed to fix the economy and create jobs -- and voters don't particularly like either one. When asked how they feel about the federal government about 60% used the word "frustrated" and another 26% said they were "angry". Only 11% said they were "content".

It seems like the public debacle over raising the debt ceiling was the last straw for voters, and it has even affected the president's popularity. Back in February of this year the president had an approval rating of 49% and disapproval of 42%, according to Pew. That has now flip-flopped. In August the president's approval rating has fallen to 43%, while 49% of those polled say they disapprove of his job performance.

Those are some pretty disappointing numbers for the president, but not hopeless. When the voters were asked whether Obama should be re-elected, 43% said yes and 40% said a Republican should be elected. That's an 8 point drop from May, when the president held an 11 point advantage.

It is clear from those numbers that the president needs to re-energize his base and get them all to the polls or he could be in for a tough time on election day. And that may be tougher than he and his aides think. Last Fall about 50% of Democrats said their party was doing a poor or only fair job of standing up for the party's traditional values -- and that resulted in an electoral disaster, because too many Democrats either stayed at home or failed to pursue an aggressive GOTV effort.

After the latest "compromise" on the debt ceiling this has gotten worse. Now 61% of Democrats believe their politicians are doing a poor or only fair job. Whether he wants to admit it or not, the president has some serious fence-mending to do within his own party. He simply cannot afford to have a repeat of 2010, and that's exactly what an un-energized base would give him.

But while the president's numbers look weak, the approval numbers for Congress are downright pitiful. Only 25% of voters think Congress is doing a good job, and 70% don't approve of the job they are doing. And the voters don't think much of either party's leaders in Congress. Voters only had a 29% approval of Democratic leaders before the last election. That approval still stands at 29%. Democratic congressional leaders have been unable to improve their standing with voters.

But while the Democrats have shown no improvement, the bottom has fallen out for Republican congressional leaders. They had an approval of nearly 40% before the last election. But after watching their performance for the last few months only 22% of voters now think Republican congressional leaders are doing a good job. That's a precipitous drop in popularity.

And voter disapproval has not just dropped for those in Washington. Approval ratings have also dropped for both general parties. Here are the figures for both parties:

February favorable..........47%
February unfavorable..........46% (+1)
August favorable..........43%
August unfavorable..........50% (-7)

February favorable..........43%
February unfavorable...........48% (-5)
August favorable..........34%
August unfavorable..........59% (-25)

It's pretty obvious that the Republicans are in the process of destroying their brand. In the past few months they have rebranded themselves as the party of the rich and the party that doesn't care about ordinary Americans -- the party that wants to give tax breaks to the rich, while destroying Medicare, Social Security, the EPA, Education, and most social programs.

And this rebranding extends to the presidential nominees. While 49% of Republicans say they have an excellent or good presidential field of candidates, only 26% of the general public feels that way. And while 44% of Republicans feel their candidates are only fair or poor, a whopping 64% of the general public feels that way. Most voters are not impressed with the possible Republican candidates, and these candidates generate high negative feelings among most voters.

Here are the percentages of voters who say there is NO CHANCE they would vote for:
Mitt Romney...............42%
Rick Perry...............47%
Herman Cain...............53%
Ron Paul...............53%
Michele Bachmann...............56%
Rick Santorum...............59%
Jon Huntsman...............59%
Newt Gingrich...............66%
Sarah Palin...............67%

This tells me that if the president can mend fences within his own party and re-energize his base, to get them to work hard for the party's GOTV and get to the polls, he will win. If he doesn't, he stands a good chance of losing (because the GOP teabagger base is energized and will show up in 2012). Can (or will) the president do it? Only the next few months will tell. Right now it could go either way.

Still On The Wall (For Now)

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in The Charlotte Observer.

Sanders Offers Solution For Social Security

The Republicans have been doing everything they can to convince Americans that Social Security is in trouble, and unless benefits are cut and the retirement age raised the program will go broke and not be solvent enough to offer benefits to the younger generation when they retire. This is an outrageous lie.

Social Security is one of those rare federal programs that has worked exactly like it was supposed to work. Before the program was enacted about half of all elderly Americans lived in poverty, but now only 10% of the elderly live in poverty. That's still too many, but any reasonable person would have to admit that reducing poverty among the elderly by 80% is a remarkable achievement.

Social Security is not in as much trouble as the Republicans would have us believe. According to the Social Security Administration the program currently has a $2.5 trillion surplus, and can meet all of its payment obligations for at least another 25 years. And it can easily be fixed to fund full payments far into the future without cutting any benefits or raising the retirement age for any generation.

Last Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) announced he will be introducing a bill offering a simple and fair solution to the future problems of Social Security. The bill will simply remove the cap of Social Security (FICA) taxes for those making more than $250,000. Currently the rich pay a much smaller percentage of their income in these taxes than 90% of Americans do (since they don't have to pay anything on their income above about $106,000).

This would not only fully fund Social Security taxes far into the future, but it would make the FICA tax much more fair for everyone. It is just not right (or fair) for the bottom 90% of Americans to pay about 6% of their income to FICA (although Obama has reduced that to about 4.5% for now) while the richest 10% pay a much tinier percentage (example: a person making $100,000 or less pays 6%, while a person making a million dollars would only pay 0.006%). It certainly would not hurt the rich, who can afford it, to pay a percentage equal to that of other working Americans.

But as imminently sensible as Sanders new bill would be, you can bet that it will be opposed vociferously by the Republicans in Congress. That's because they care more for the rich than they do for elderly Americans. They would rather cut Social Security benefits and throw many more elderly people into poverty than ask the rich to pay the same tax percentage of other American workers. I don't know how they can defend such a ridiculous position, but I guarantee you they will try,

The Republicans have never liked Social Security and they would love to abolish it. During the Bush administration they tried to "privatize" it by turning the worker's tax over to their buddies on Wall Street to play with. That would have been good for the greed-mongers of Wall Street, but a huge gamble for retirees. That didn't work because of the negative feedback from the public (who strongly support Social Security).

Now they are trying to dismantle Social Security in a different way. They want to convince Americans that the budget deficit can't be reduced without cutting Social Security. That is another lie. Social Security, since it has its own funding, hasn't contributed to the deficit or the national debt at all -- not a single penny. And cutting Social Security benefits will NOT bring down the deficit or the national debt at all.

Maybe it's time to remind the congressional Republicans of the words of one of their own right-wing icons -- Ronald Reagan. In 1983 Reagan told Americans:

"It was nearly 50 years ago when, under the leadership of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the American people reached a great turning point, setting up the Social Security system. F.D.R. spoke then of an era of startling industrial changes that tended more and more to make life insecure. It was his belief that the system can furnish only a base upon which each one of our citizens may build his individual security through his own individual efforts. Today we reaffirm Franklin Roosevelt's commitment that Social Security must always provide a secure and stable base so that older Americans may live in dignity." 

It's time to stop telling lies about Social Security and act to save it by passing Sander's proposed bill. It's fair, and it will make the program healthy for many decades to come.

Nobody Would Notice

Political Cartoon is by Lee Judge in The Kansas City Star.

Religious Questions GOP Candidates Need To Answer

The other day a person asked Republican candidate for president Michele Bachmann a question regarding her religious beliefs. The question regarded the statements Bachmann had made about being submissive to her husband, and the questioner wanted to know how that would affect her as president (if elected). She didn't really answer the question, and I guess that was all right with the crowd because they had groaned at the question as though it should not have been asked.

Normally I would agree with the crowd -- if the candidates had all pretty much shown through their previous words and actions that they respected the separation of religion from government. After all, we live in a very diverse country with people of many different religions making up the population (and about 10% who have no religion at all). That makes it important that the government remain secular, and not slanted to any particular religion (or toward any religion at all).

But this is not a normal year, and several Republican presidential candidates wear their religion on their sleeves. And some of those candidates have even indicated that they would in some way include their religion in the way they govern -- especially Rick Perry, Michele Bachmann, and Rick Santorum (and doubts even exist about Cain, Gingrich, and others). The American public has a right to know exactly how much and in what way is their religion going to affect our government if they were to be elected.

These are legitimate concerns for a citizen to have. And to address those concerns, Bill Keller in the New York Times has composed a short list of questions he would like for each of the candidates to answer. I think his questions are good ones, and I would like the candidates to answer them also. Here are his questions:

1. Is it fair to question presidential candidates about details of their faith?
2. Is it fair to question candidates about controversial remarks made by their pastors, mentors, close associates or thinkers whose books they recommend?
3. (a) Do you agree with those religious leaders who say that America is a “Christian nation” or “Judeo-Christian nation?” (b) What does that mean in  practice?
4. If you encounter a conflict between your faith and the Constitution and laws of the United States, how would you resolve it? Has that happened, in your experience?
5. (a) Would you have any hesitation about appointing a Muslim to the federal bench? (b) What about an atheist?
6. Are Mormons Christians, in your view? Should the fact that Mitt Romney and Jon Huntsman are Mormons influence how we think of them as candidates?
7. What do you think of  the evangelical Christian movement known as Dominionism and the idea that Christians, and only Christians, should hold dominion over the secular institutions of the earth?
8. (a) What is your attitude toward the theory of evolution? (b) Do you believe it should be taught in public schools?
9. Do you believe it is proper for teachers to lead students in prayer in public schools?

He also has some specific questions for specific candidates, and you can go here to read those.

Didn't Stop It

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Atheist Or Christian ?

Atheist groups have been putting up a lot of billboards across the country lately, and a lot of people have been congratulating the Mid-Ohio Atheists for putting up the billboard above. The problem is that the group had nothing to do with it. It wasn't put up by any atheist group. It is actually meant to be a reply to atheist billboards, and it was put up by the McElroy Road Church of Christ. Isn't this the very definition of EPIC FAIL?

GDP Figures Show Economy Still In Trouble

There was a little more bad news regarding the economy released this last week. It was announced that the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2011, which was originally thought to be an annualized rate of 1.3%, was actually only 1.0%. The correct figures are shown in the chart above. This is better than the annualized rate of growth from the first quarter, which was only 0.4%, but it's not nearly enough to stimulate job creation or help pay down the budget deficit.

In fact, the chart above is a little misleading because it shows the annualized rate of growth for each quarter rather than the actual growth in the quarter. The annualized rate means that if all four quarters showed the same growth that the last quarter did, then the rate of growth for the year would be 1.0% -- meaning the actual rate of growth for the quarter was only 1/4 of that, or 0.25% (and the actual growth for the first quarter was 0.1%). That means if the final two quarters of this year equal second quarter growth, and there is little reason to believe they would do better than that, then the total yearly GDP for 2011 would be a whopping 0.85%!

The Congressional Budget Office has predicted a GDP of 2.4% for 2011 (with 2.6% for 2012 and an average of 3.6% for the following three years). That seems like an incredibly optimistic prediction to me. Where is the demand going to come from for this growth -- the free-enterprise fairy? It's certainly not going to be a result of government actions, because the recent actions of the federal government are to contract the economy (and therefore demand) rather than expand it.

The Democrats seem to be floundering around looking for a solution. But the Republicans are even worse. They have "solutions", but those solutions would actually cause further damage rather than fix the economy -- just like these same policies did when enacted by Herbert Hoover as a "solution" to the Great Depression.

The Republican solution is to slash government spending, especially on programs that put money into the hands of hurting Americans, and cut taxes for the rich. Their trickle-down, or supply-side economics, says if we give rich people more money they will use that money to make more goods (and hire more workers to do that). In simplistic terms, if you build it they will buy it. The problem with that is that it is backwards to how economics really works. Supply does not create demand. Demand creates supply.

The biggest reason the GDP is so sluggish right now is because demand is very low -- consumers are simply not buying in large enough quantities to produce growth. Why is demand so low? Because there are 14-17 million people unemployed, another 8-9 million underemployed (working part-time because they can't find full-time work), millions more working for minimum wage or less, and stagnant wage-growth for those lucky enough to have a job.

The only people doing well in this economy are the rich and giving them more money won't stimulate demand since they already have enough money to buy whatever they want. The only way to stimulate demand is to put more money into the hands of the bottom 90% -- not the top 10%. The bottom 90% would spend that money, which create demand, which would stimulate job creation. Giving the rich more money only fattens the bank accounts of the rich, but giving ordinary citizens (the bottom 90%) more money helps everyone -- even the rich, because the demand for their goods and services would rise and give them more profits (even if they had to pay a higher tax rate).

What the government should be doing is putting more money into social programs to help those who are hurting, and tax the rich more to pay for it. Republicans claim this would stifle growth, but they are wrong. It would create demand (and jobs), and as I said, that would be good for everyone.

That is also the only way out of the deficit crunch. When demand rises and jobs are created, tax revenues will rise (assuming the new jobs aren't minimum wage jobs) and the deficit will be lowered. The only way out of a recession is through spending to create demand and jobs. Cutting government spending didn't work for Hoover, and it won't work now.

What's Next ?

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Washington Examiner.

U.S. Mid-East Policy Still Biased

There is no doubt that when George W. Bush was president the United States was biased toward Israel. That is why there was no progress in Mid-East talks during his administration. A solution to the crises would require both the Israelis and Palestinians to negotiate and compromise -- neither of which Israel wants to do (since they are currently busy stealing Palestinian land and building settlements). But Bush would put no pressure on Israel. Whatever Israel wanted was OK with him.

When President Obama was elected, I was hoping it would result in a more even-handed approach to the Mid-East crises -- that we would pressure Israel to accept a two-state solution while guaranteeing the existence and protection of Israel. But I'm afraid that hope was in vain. Recent actions by the United States confirms that U.S. Mid-East policy is still being dictated by Israel. And Israel is still refusing to go to the negotiating table (or stop building the illegal settlements). Israel also refuses to lift its illegal and inhumane blockade of Palestinian territory.

Since the Israelis won't agree to allowing the Palestinians create their own free and independent nation (a nation not under the control of Israel), the Palestinians are trying something a bit different. They are taking their case to the United Nations -- probably in September of this year. They will ask the United Nations to recognize them as a country (something quite a few nations, especially in Latin America, have already done) and give them a seat in the United Nations. This would put serious pressure on Israel to stop their refusal to negotiate and illegal actions.

But the United States is having none of it, since they still get their marching orders from the Israeli government. Daniel Rubinstein, U.S. General Consul in Jerusalem, has told Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat that the United States will veto any action taken by the Security Council to recognize Palestine. In addition, if Palestine follows through on its promise to go to the United Nations the United States will cut off its economic aid to them (making a desperate situation much worse).

This is inexcusable. The Palestinians should have the right to take their case to the U.N. with reprisals from the United States. This clearly shows that the Obama administration is just as biased toward Israel as the Bush administration was.

The United States needs to re-think its foreign policy regarding Israel. We are still operating from a holocaust guilt (because we did not do enough to prevent the "final solution" in World War II). I can understand the guilt, but that was a long time ago. It should not be guiding our current policy. Israel has a right to exist and be protected, but it does not have the right to abuse other peoples or nations (and that is what's currently happening).

Toy Story 2012

Political Cartoon is by Jerry Holbert in The Boston Herald.

Chavez Due For Third Round Of Cancer Treatments

Hugo Chavez, the elected president of Venezuela, will be taking his third round of chemotherapy treatments very soon. He had his operation for a cancerous tumor in his pelvic region and his first two rounds of chemotherapy in Cuba, but this third round of treatments will be done in Venezuela.

Chavez checked himself in to a Caracas military hospital yesterday, and the treatments should begin in a day or so. Chavez said, "I'm not going to go to Cuba this time. In the coming hours, between today and tomorrow we'll be preparing for the third round."

Hopefully, his staying in Venezuela this time is a good sign. Sources have said that since the operation no cancer has been detected and the treatments are a preventative measure to keep the cancer from re-appearing. I hope that is true and he does well.

Chavez has been good for Venezuela, and South America in general. He has brought a lot of people out of poverty, especially indigenous peoples, and assured they have some rights and a voice in their government. He has also used some of Venezuela's oil riches to help other South American countries free themselves from the greedy grip of Western corporations and financial interests.

Get well Mr. President. Venezuela and South America still need you.

A Giant

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Stahler in The Columbus Dispatch.

States With Highest Divorce Rates

Marriage is still a very popular institution in the United States, although recent statistics show that it is declining. The sad part is that divorce is also popular. Statistics from 2008 showed that 40% of marriages ended in divorce (and 46% of new marriages involved at least one person who had been previously married). CBS News recently posted the states with the highest rate of divorced people. I thought it was interesting so I am re-posting their list here. An interesting side-note here is that most of these states are red states -- states that oppose gay marriage because it would "harm" the holy sacrament of marriage. Make of that what you will. Here they are by gender (and the number is the number of divorced people per 1,000):

1. Arkansas.....13.5
2. Maine.....13.0
3. Oklahoma.....12.8
4. Alabama.....12.7
5. Kentucky.....12.6
6. Alaska.....12.5
7. Nevada.....12.3
8. Colorado.....11.6
9. Georgia.....11.5
10. Tennessee.....11.4
11. Mississippi.....11.1
12. Louisiana.....11.0
12. Indiana.....11.0
14. W. Virginia.....10.9
14. S. Dakota.....10.9

1. Alaska.....16.2
2. Oklahoma.....14.1
3. Alabama.....13.9
4. Kentucky.....13.5
5. Arkansas.....12.8
6. Mississippi.....12.5
7. Nevada.....12.3
8. Texas.....11.9
8. Arizona.....11.9
10. W. Virginia.....11.8
11. Georgia.....11.7
12. Tennessee.....11.6
13. Vermont.....11.5
14. Oregon.....11.4

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Campaign Money

This should help explain why the Washington politicians don't pay any attention to anyone but the rich and the corporations. According to CNN:

Only 0.04% of Americans give in excess of $200 to candidates, parties or political action committees -- and those donations account for 64.8% of all contributions.

The Ghoul In The Governor's Office

I have posted many times about Texas governor Rick Perry and his many faults (and they are numerous). He has sold out to the corporations, letting them avoid taxes and poison the air and water (which extends far beyond the border of Texas). When his incompetence resulted in a $27 billion shortfall for the state government, he made up for it by cutting education funds and slashing programs to help children, the elderly, and the poor.

But this story shows just how low the Republican governor is willing to go. It seems that the governor is a ghoul. That may sound like an overstatement to you, but Webster's defines a ghoul as "one who preys upon the dead", and that is just what Perry wanted to do -- in this case the dead were Texas teachers.

An investigation by the Huffington Post has uncovered an agreement Perry had reached with the giant Swiss Bank UBS. It seems that Perry, with the help of his mentor Phil Gramm (a former senator and well-known ultra right-wing nut-job), had conspired with UBS Bank to purchase life insurance policies of older Texas teachers and teacher retirees, then bundle these policies together and sell them as "securities". Texas and UBS would then split the profits, and it was estimated that the state's share could be upwards of $700 million.

Only two things stood in the way of the ghoulish scheme. It is against the law for unrelated third-parties to buy life insurance on someone, and no policy would be issued without the permission of the person being insured. The first issue wasn't really a problem. The state's Insurance Commissioner is appointed by the governor, and Insurance Commissioner Jose Montemayor assured the governor that any applicable rules could be waived to make the plan successful.

Now all they needed was to get enough teachers and retirees to sign off on the plan to make it profitable. It was figured that at least 40,000 policies were needed to insure the plan could make many millions. The governor's office then showed they were serious in pursuing the ghoulish plan. Staff members from the governor's office actually met with representatives of the Texas Teachers Retirement System, the Texas Classroom Teachers Association, and the Texas State Teachers Association.

Perry and his staff hoped they could talk the teachers into doing this for nothing, but they did set aside enough money to pay a teacher or retiree $50-$100 for signing off on the policies -- a pittance considering the large sums the policies would pay out when the people died. And of course, the families of those who died would not receive a single penny from the insurance payout on their loved one -- zilch, zero, nada, nothing. All of the insurance money paid out would be divided up by the greedy bankers and politicians.

Fortunately, the news media got wind of the ghoulish scheme before it could be put in operation and the plan was abandoned. Even a politician as brain-dead as Perry could see the plan was not going to play well in the press. The governor's office tried to distance themselves from the plan by saying it was just a "concept" being considered. But the truth is that staff members from the governor's office had already held meetings to try and turn the "concept" into reality.

Rick Perry tries hard to paint himself as a pious christian, but that is just a facade. As this ghoulish plan shows, he really has no moral and ethical base. And you can bet if he'd been able to get this program off the ground he'd have found a way to dip his own finger into the money pie. After all, this is the person who became a millionaire after becoming governor (through shady land deals with his rich friends).

It Ain't Real

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

New Supernova In Earth's "Backyard"

Astronomers have discovered a new supernova (basically an exploding star that increases greatly in size). The exciting thing is that this is the closest supernova to Earth in the last 25 years -- only 21 million light-years away in the Pinwheel Galaxy. In astronomical terms, that's virtually in Earth's backyard. In the above pictures, it is the growing dot at the tip of the green arrow.

This is also the earliest time in the life-cycle of a supernova that scientists have discovered one. It started out as about an Earth-size object and it had expanded to about the size of the distance between the Sun and Jupiter when it was discovered last Monday (the pictures above were taken on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday). Scientists believe it will continue to expand as a normal supernova, and by the first or second week of September it will be visible on a dark night with just a pair of binoculars.

To find it in the sky, look just north of the last two stars in the handle of the Big Dipper. The supernova will form a rough equilateral triangle with those two stars.

Selling Books

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

Celebrating Equality For American Women

I'm a day late as usual, but this is an important enough event to post about it anyway. Yesterday was officially declared by the President to be Women's Equality Day. When our nation was founded, women were not granted rights equal to those of men (especially white men who owned property). It took a lot of dedication and hard work, but the women of America have made a lot of progress toward that goal of equality. There is still work to be done, like closing the pay gap between men and women, but this is a time to celebrate the accomplishments already achieved. Here is the text of the president's proclamation creating the special day:


The 19th Amendment to the United States Constitution tore down the last formal barrier to women's enfranchisement in our Nation and empowered America's women to have their voices heard in the halls of power. This Amendment became law only after decades of work by committed trailblazers who fought to extend the right to vote to women across America. For the women who fought for this right, voting was not the end of the journey for equality, but the beginning of a new era in the advancement of our Union. These brave and tenacious women challenged our Nation to live up to its founding principles, and their legacy inspires us to reach ever higher in our pursuit of liberty and equality for all. 

Before the Amendment took effect, women had been serving our Nation in the public realm since its earliest days. Even before they gained the right to vote, America's women were leaders of movements, academics, and reformers, and had even served in the Congress. Legions of brave women wrote and lectured for change. They let their feet speak when their voices alone were not enough, protesting and marching for their fundamental right to vote in the face of heckling, jail, and abuse. Their efforts led to enormous progress millions upon millions of women have since used the power of the ballot to help shape our country. 

Today, our Nation's daughters reap the benefits of these courageous pioneers while paving the way for generations of women to come. But work still remains. My Administration is committed to advancing equality for all of our people. This year, the Council of Women and Girls released "Women in America: Indicators of Social and Economic Well-Being," the most comprehensive report in 50 years on the status of women in our country, shedding light on issues women face in employment, crime, health, and family life. We are working to ensure that women-owned businesses can compete in the marketplace, that women are not discriminated against in healthcare, and that we redouble our efforts to bring an end to sexual assault on college campuses. 

On the 91st anniversary of this landmark in civil rights, we continue to uphold the foundational American principles that we are all equal, and that each of us deserves a chance to pursue our dreams. We honor the heroes who have given of themselves to advance the causes of justice, opportunity, and prosperity. As we celebrate the legacy of those who made enormous strides in the last century and before, we renew our commitment to hold true to the dreams for which they fought, and we look forward to a bright future for our Nation's daughters. 

NOW, THEREFORE, I, BARACK OBAMA, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the Constitution and the laws of the United States, do hereby proclaim August 26, 2011, as Women's Equality Day. I call upon the people of the United States to celebrate the achievements of women and recommit ourselves to the goal of gender equality in this country. 

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


A Quiz

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

Friday, August 26, 2011

Different Types Of Republicans

There are different types of Republicans. The blog Remembering Bedlam thinks there are eight types. I think they may have gotten it right.

What The Public Really Thinks Of ObamaCare

I am not a big fan of the health care reform passed by the Democrats and signed by President Obama (commonly referred to as ObamaCare). But while I don't think the reform went nearly far enough (a single-payer program should have been enacted, or at least a public option offered), I do admit that the reforms enacted were better than doing nothing at all -- and I think it would be a serious mistake to repeal the reforms.

Of course the Republicans have nothing good to say about the health reform. They opposed it in spite of the fact that it incorporated nearly all of the ideas for health reform proposed by Republicans during the Clinton administration. It seems that the simple act of President Obama agreeing to these Republican ideas made them no longer acceptable to Republicans. Now they call it socialism and keep telling us that most Americans would like to see the program repealed.

But is that what the American public really thinks about ObamaCare? Do they really want the health care reform repealed? The folks at The Economist decided to find out, and they hired YouGov Polling to find out. The Economist/YouGov Poll was conducted between August 20th and August 23rd of a random sample of 1,000 adults nationwide (and had a margin of error of 3.7 points).

According to this new poll there is not a majority of Americans wanting to repeal ObamaCare, but there is a plurality that would like to see it repealed. Here are the numbers:

Strongly favor...............26%
Neither favor nor oppose...............25%
Strongly oppose...............23%
Total favor...............41%
Total oppose...............35%

That would seem to favor the Republican position (even though it's not a majority). But it's a little bit more complicated than that. When you ask these same people about the separate parts of ObamaCare you find that the people actually support most of what the program does. Here is what the people think about the individual parts of ObamaCare:

Neither favor nor oppose..........26%

Neither favor nor oppose..........26%

Neither favor nor oppose..........23%

Neither favor nor oppose..........24%

Neither favor nor oppose..........28%

Neither favor nor oppose..........29%

Neither favor nor oppose..........22%

When we look at the individual parts of ObamaCare, we find that the people are actually in favor of them (and most people would not like to see these things repealed). There is only one individual aspect of ObamaCare that a majority of Americans oppose. It is:

Neither favor nor oppose..........24%

I think this is because people have heard too many lies and not completely thought this through. The Republicans have given people the impression that this will be an onerous financial obligation that will be forced on working people who cannot afford it. That is simply not true. A family of four making less than $88,000 will receive help from the government to help defray the cost of purchasing insurance (and the less a family makes the more help they will get).

Also, this will actually help people financially. All families will have a medical emergency sooner or later, and having the insurance they were "forced" to purchase will prevent them from being stuck with enormous medical bills -- bills that could destroy their finances and even drive them into bankruptcy. People without health insurance are playing "russian-roulette" with their financial well-being.

The provision requiring everyone to purchase insurance will actually drive down the cost of insurance. In fact, it is the only provision of those discussed here that will help to drive down the cost -- all of the others will tend to drive up the cost. Currently the doctors and hospitals must inflate their bills to cover the cost of giving care to people with no health insurance coverage (and no way to pay). These inflated costs are included in the bills the insurance companies must pay, and the insurance companies pass those costs on to their customers through higher premium costs.

When everyone has insurance, there will be no need to inflate medical costs to cover people without insurance. In addition, the insurance companies can keep premiums down because they are selling a lot more policies and therefore receiving a lot more income from the policies they sell. But since there will not be more money being paid out, they won't need to raise premium prices as much or as often as they currently do.

Those opposed to repealing health care reform need to do a better job of explaining both the advantages and necessity of requiring everyone to have insurance coverage. Once this is done, I believe the majority will even agree with this provision.

A Rick Perry Education

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe in The Denver Post.

Third Poll Shows Perry In Lead

I posted yesterday about two polls (Gallup & Public Policy Polling) that showed Mitt Romney had been toppled from his month's long reign as the leading candidate to get the Republican presidential nomination. Both polls showed Rick Perry with a double-digit lead even though he's only been a candidate for a few days. Now a third poll has come out, and it verifies that Perry is now the leader in the race (although he has yet to significantly distance himself from the rest of the pack).

The Economist/YouGov Poll was conducted between August 20th and August 23rd (with a margin of error of 3.7 points). It shows that Rick Perry has assumed a clear lead:

Rick Perry...............23%
Mitt Romney...............15%
Ron Paul...............11%
Michele Bachmann...............9%
Herman Cain...............8%
Rudy Giuliani...............6%
Sarah Palin...............4%
Newt Gingrich...............4%
Rick Santorum...............2%
Jon Huntsman...............2%
No preference...............11%

This has got to scare the hell out of establishment Republicans who were thinking they might have a shot at taking the White House back in this terrible jobless recession. Now it looks more likely than ever that the party, thanks to the teabagger base they have encouraged, will nominate a far right-wing candidate who will alienate and scare most of the electorate (and make no mistake about it, Rick Perry is every bit as teabagger crazy as Bachmann, Palin, Cain, Paul, and Santorum).

The real disaster that establishment Republicans are afraid of is that a crazy right-winger at the top of the ballot could have a negative effect all the way down the ballot -- giving them an electoral result as bad or worse than 2008. It's unlikely that even a moderate Republican, if such a thing exists, could win the White House in 2012, but they could attract enough independents to the ticket to save the Republicans in House and Senate races. But Perry is not that person.

Here is how the poll showed Republicans doing against the president right now: