Sunday, June 30, 2013

Renew The Fight In Austin On Monday

Religious Bigotry Is Still Bigotry

The Minimum Wage Is Not A Livable Wage And Republicans Like It That Way

President Obama has called for raising the minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. The charts above show why the minimum wage needs to be raised. Back in 1968, the minimum wage had the buying power of $10.34 an hour (in 2011 dollars) -- about $3.09 more than it was in 2011. And considering inflation has risen in the last couple of years, the 2013 buying power of minimum wage (in 2011 dollars) is even less than the $7.25 it was in 2011.

Even as late as 1980, the minimum wage (in 2011 dollars) was $8.46 an hour -- $1.21 an hour more than in 2011. But the Republicans took power in 1980 and instituted their failed "trickle-down" policies, one of which was to keep the minimum wage as low as possible. And the buying power of the minimum wage has not neared $8.00 an hour since then.

The second chart shows just how devastating this erosion of the minimum wage has been for the millions of Americans who must work for (or near) the minimum wage. Back in 1968, the minimum wage was nearly a livable wage, and would put a family at 94.4% of the poverty level. That's not great, but it is a lot better than the minimum wage will  do today, at only 66.1% of the poverty level for a family of four.

The Republicans will tell you that the minimum wage is only paid to teenagers just entering the workforce, and no one has to support a family on it. That is nonsense. There are 15.9 million workers in this country that would be directly affected by a raising of the minimum wage -- and 79.5% of them are over the age of 20. And at least 25% of them (at least 4 million workers) have children they must support on that ridiculously low wage.

About 59.4% of minimum wage workers are women and about 40.6% are men -- and most work in service industries like restaurants, hotels, and home health care. About 57.9% are Whites, 14.9% are Blacks, 21.6% are Hispanics, 3.6% are Asians, and 2% belong to other races/ethnicities.

Those are the facts. And the situation is not improving. Most of the new jobs created in this recovery have been at or near minimum wage jobs -- and it is estimated that by 2025 (only 12 years from now) about 25% of American workers will be working in minimum wage jobs.

It is clear to me that this country will be in serious trouble if we don't raise the minimum wage soon. And personally, I don't think the president's level of $9.00 an hour is enough. Just to get workers back near the poverty level, it would take something in the neighborhood of $10.50 an hour. And no one who works hard at a full-time job should have to live in poverty. The minimum wage should also be tied to the rate of inflation after it is raised, to prevent inflation from immediately starting to erode it.

Unfortunately, as long as the Republicans control one of the Houses of Congress the minimum wage will not be raised. Just the other day, Senator Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee) said he would like to abolish the minimum wage -- and he's what passes for a moderate among congressional Republicans. You can imagine what the more radical teabagger congressmen think!

The Republicans don't care that several polls have shown a clear majority of Americans want to see the minimum wage raised (and most would like it raised more than $9.00 an hour). The only people they really care about are Wall Street bankers, Corporate executives, and rich investors -- none of whom will ever have to subsist on a minimum wage salary.

2014 is closer than you think, and we must make a concerted effort to vote the GOP out of power. Common decency demands it.

A Prickly Outreach

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

The Failure Of The War Against Marijuana

It has been illegal to grow or possess marijuana in the United States since 1937. And in 1942, its medical use was also outlawed. This war on the gentle herb was kicked into high gear in the early 1970's, when President Nixon declared a "war on drugs" and started to spend huge amounts of money to eradicate marijuana (and other drug) use. To date, more than a trillion dollars has been wasted in this silly "war".

I say it was wasted because all drugs, including marijuana, are just as available now as they were before the "war" was declared. Maybe they are even more accessible, because the illegality of marijuana and other drugs has created a huge black market -- and many criminal organizations have been created to meet that black market demand (just like they were during alcohol prohibition).

And marijuana, the least dangerous drug known (legal or illegal), has proven to be impossible to eradicate. That's because it is easy to grow in nearly every country in the world -- including the United States, where it can be grown in every state of the Union. The chart above, from the Business Insider magazine, highlights just how ineffective efforts to eradicate marijuana has been.

The chart concerns the eradication of marijuana grown in this country (and doesn't concern itself with the many thousands of tons being imported each year). Note that very few states have shown a decrease in the growing of marijuana due to the government's effort. Only 8 states (those in dark green) have seen more than a 10% decrease, and another 8 (in light green) have seen a decrease of less than 10%. Meanwhile, 12 states (in dark red) have seen an increase of more than 100%, while the rest have seen increases of less than 100%.

The truth is that the government cannot eradicate marijuana growing in the United States, anymore than it can stop the importation of marijuana. In fact, marijuana is one of the largest cash crops in several states. The American people are starting to realize that the government has been lying to them about marijuana (and its supposed dangers), and several polls have shown that a majority now believe it should be legalized -- and two states (Colorado and Washington) have already legalized marijuana for recreational use by adults 21 or older. Here is the truth about the "gentle herb":

* Marijuana is one of the safest drugs known (and safer than many drugs that are legal, like alcohol and tobacco -- and even safer than most over-the-counter drugs like aspirin and tylenol).

* Marijuana is not physically addictive.

* Marijuana users cannot take a lethal overdose, and deaths from marijuana are nonexistent.

* Marijuana has numerous medical uses, including in the fight against cancer (as recent studies have shown).

* Marijuana does not inhibit a person's ability to drive (like alcohol and many other drugs do). This has been demonstrated in several studies, which have shown drivers on marijuana are just as safe as drivers who are on no drug at all.

* Marijuana is not a gateway drug, and does not lead to the use of other drugs.

It is time for the people (and the government) to acknowledge the truth. Marijuana cannot be eradicated, and its recreational use cannot be stopped (or even curtailed much). We are wasting huge amounts of money each year -- money that could be spent better addressing the many real problems this country faces (unemployment, poverty, saving the environment, developing new types and sources of energy, funding education, etc.). It is time to legalize marijuana, and tax the hell out of it. We could then put our policing agencies back to chasing real criminals (that steal from or hurt people), instead of making criminals out of harmless recreational users of marijuana.

Before And After

Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in the Sacramento Bee.

Green Party Blasts Court's Gutting Of VRA

A few day's ago the Supreme Court basically gutted the Voting Rights Act by wiping out the section that enumerated those states and localities that needed approval before changing voting laws or re-districting (because they had a history of discrimination and denying of voting rights). This odious court decision once again opens the door for racists (and other Republicans) to restrict or deny voting rights to those they don't like (or those they think would vote against them).

The Green Party of the United States has now published (on June 26th) their response to this terrible court decision. Here it is, as written by Robert Fitrakis (the party's shadow cabinet FEC chair):

By a 5-4 vote today, June 25, 2013, the U.S. Supreme Court has sanctioned the return of apartheid in nine states in our union that have a long legacy of blocking black and Latino voters.
The Court struck down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 that required nine states, all but one former Confederate states, to seek pre-clearance from the U.S. Justice Department prior to changing election laws. The states are Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.
Blatant racist attacks on the U.S. electorate have been the deliberate strategy of the Republican Party, in particular, since its theft of the 2000 presidential election in Florida.
In 2000, the Republican Party overtly embraced old-fashioned Jim Crow tactics, targeting former felons as a pretext for stripping 90,000 poor and minority voters from the voting rolls. A majority of the illegally purged voters were African American.
In 2004, the Republicans shifted these deliberate racist tactics to the pivotal battleground state of Ohio. More than 300,000 voters were eliminated from registration rolls in heavily Democratic urban areas such as Toledo and Cincinnati. In the city of Cleveland 24.93% of all voters in the 2000 presidential election vanished from the voting rolls. Republican Secretary of State J. Kenneth Blackwell, Ohio’s first black elected official, deployed a wide range of deceptive methods aimed at disenfranchising poor and minority voters. Also, urban areas were short-changed on voting machines and denied paper backup ballots. Tens of thousands of minority voters were forced to use the “back of the bus” provisional ballots, which often went uncounted or were discarded.
So successful were these new Jim Crow tactics in Ohio, the Republicans purged another 1.2 million in the 2008 election in the Buckeye State. They repeated this in 2012,  purging 1.25 million more voters.
Also in 2012, led by Georgia and Indiana, GOP-controlled legislatures began passing laws demanding state-issued photo ID cards for all voters. New York University’s Brennan Center estimated that such laws would disenfranchise more than 10 million voters. It is precisely this type of law that will go into effect in Texas as a result of this June 25 Supreme Court decision.
Poor, minority and elderly voters who do not drive, often do not have a photo ID. Moreover, forcing people who do not need a driver’s license or state-issued photo ID card should constitute an illegal poll tax.
The Supreme Court ruling removes the last remnants of protection for poor and minority voters and will openly invite new and creative ways to repress the most vulnerable people in our society.
What the Supreme Court should have done is expand the principles of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 into the emerging Jim Crow states of Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania.  
What the Green Shadow Cabinet proposes goes far beyond a voting rights act. A new federal voting rights law, followed by a constitutional voting rights amendment must be passed guaranteeing all U.S. citizens the right to vote. In the spirit of Martin Luther King, Jr., ultimately we will be judged as a democracy by what we do to protect and defend the most vulnerable of our sisters and brothers.


Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in the Miami Herald.

German Sprinter Wins 1st Stage Of Tour

Stage 1 of the 100th Tour de France has been run. This was a stage for the sprinters, and the entire peloton of riders finished with the same time. Here are the first three riders to cross the finish line:

1. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Argos-Shimano
2. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Katusha
3. Danny Van Poppel (Netherlands) Vacansoleil-DCM

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Standing)
1. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Argos-Shimano
2. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Katusha
3. Danny Van Poppel (Netherlands) Vacansoleil-DCM
4. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Sharp
5. Matteo Trentin (Italy) Omega Pharma-Quick Step


1. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Argos-Shimano..........45 pts
2. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Katusha..........35 pts
3. Danny Van Poppel (Netherlands) Vacansoleil-DCM..........30 pts
4. David Millar (Great Britain) Garmin-Sharp..........26 pts
5. Matteo Trentin (Italy) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........22 pts

Juan Jose Lobato Del Valle (Spain) Euskaltel-Euskadi..........1 pt

WHITE JERSEY (Young Rider)
1. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Argos-Shimano
2. Danny Van Poppel (Netherlands) Vacansoleil-DCM
3. Matteo Trentin (Italy) Omega Pharma-Quick Step
4. Sep Vanmarcke (Belgium) Belkin Pro Cycling
5. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step

1. Vacansoleil-DCM (Netherlands)
2. Orica Greenedge (Australia)
3. Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)
4. AG2R La Mondiale (France)
5. Movistar (Spain) 

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Why Is Government Money Good For Them But Bad For Poor People ?

Obama Offers Final "Compromise" On Free Birth Control For Women

A few months ago, the Obama administration issued a ruling that said insurance companies must offer and pay for all of the cost of contraceptives for women covered by their policies. The insurance companies didn't object to this rule, because that was cheaper for them to do than pay for a bunch of unwanted pregnancies. But some faith-based groups did object -- seeing an opportunity to try and embarrass the president (while denying free and easy access to contraceptives to their employees). They quickly claimed that the new rule violated their religious rights, since they opposed the use of birth control.

It was always a silly argument. None of these groups was going to have to pay a penny for the free contraceptives for their employees (since all of the cost was to be absorbed by the insurance companies). And none of these groups has the right to make health care choices for their employees, regardless of any religious views. Fortunately, the Obama administration has refused to back down.

But they have made some paperwork changes on the requirement in a final "compromise" offer. This final offer says if a group notifies its insurance carrier that they oppose birth control being included in their policies, then the insurance companies will provide those employees with a free additional policy that will pay for the birth control. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services, said:

“Today’s announcement reinforces our commitment to respect the concerns of houses of worship and other non-profit religious organizations that object to contraceptive coverage, while helping to ensure that women get the care they need, regardless of where they work." 

This is an extremely reasonable effort by the Obama administration. It lets the ridiculous religious nuts save face, while still providing free and easy access to birth control for any of their employees who want it. But I'm sure some of those groups will still oppose it, since I think their opposition was more political (and misogynistic) than religious anyway.

I commend the Obama administration for this "compromise". It was the right thing to do (to not back down on this important issue). Misogynistic religious views should never be allowed to trump women's health. This was always a health issue -- not a religious issue.

Back To The Bad Old Days

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

Same-Sex Marriage Resumes In California

The happy couple pictured above are Kris Perry and Sandy Stier, who were celebrating their marriage in California. Governor Brown had ordered all county clerks to again start issuing marriage certificates as soon as the 9th Court of Appeals dropped its stay in the Prop 8 case, since the Supreme Court upheld that courts decision vacating the law banning those marriages. It had been expected that would take 20 to 25 days to happen. But the 9th Court of Appeals, seeing no reason to delay, surprised everyone and lifted their stay on Friday. And same-sex couples immediately starting taking advantage of the situation.

With the addition of California, there are now 13 states and the District of Columbia that have legalized same-sex marriage (encompassing about 30% of the population of the United States). Only 37 more states to go!


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

"Wendy Shoes" Now Top-Seller On Amazon

The picture above is of the feet of Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) as she was doing her exciting and courageous filibuster to kill the odious anti-woman GOP bill in the Texas legislature. She knew it would not be easy, so she opted to wear comfortable shoes -- her Mizuno running shoes. Those shoes have now become a symbol for her political courage -- and they are flying off the shelves at In fact, they have now become the best-selling shoe on Amazon. That tells me there were a lot of people inspired by Senator Davis the other night!

People have also been using the customer review section at Amazon to make some great (and hilarious) political statements. Go over and read them all for a good laugh. Here is a sample of those comments:

The next time you have to spend 13 hours on your feet without food, water or bathroom breaks, this is the shoe for you. Guaranteed to outrun patriarchy on race day.

An essential tool for running down the clock in a state 773 miles wide and 790 miles long! These shoes are perfect for those days when you must spend 13+ hours standing, not lean on your desk or take any breaks - even for meals or to use the bathroom. The snazzy hot pink color brings out your inner badassness and helps you to "humbly give voice to thousands of Texans" and stop a "raw abuse of power" in its tracks. Raise a feminist army and lead the charge when your competitors cheat and change the rules on you. These Mizuno's are built to protect your feet from mudslinging and add sunshine to the political process. Highly recommended for fierce women and anyone who's not a Greedy Old Prick (GOP).

I bought them in pink with green stripe. I will put them on my feet when I need to run far. When I am tired, I will ask myself: WWWD?! Then I will keep running.

When I first began wearing these shoes I thought my reproductive rights were secure. Turns out, I couldn't have been more wrong. Luckily these shoes are really great for kicking republican legislators out of office! They want to shut down reproductive and health care facilities for the poor in Texas? Use these shoes to shut down the state capital!
These go perfectly with any back brace you may need after good old fashion filibusting for 9 hours (with 4 more to go). What's that? Your crappy mean spirited colleagues on the other side of the isle say it isn't fair? That's right ladies, this shoe is completely washable, so just shove it up their ass.
Most importantly, even if you wear these gems without sox for three days straight, they still smell better than a republican Lt Governor who tries to push a law through past midnight, which is absolutely and completely illegal. Yea, pretty stinky I know.

Do you believe in human rights? Do you think a women's health is a matter for her and her doctor and not for aged religious fundamentalists? Then these are the shoes for you! They will carry you through a marathon and a 13-hour filibuster necessary to protect women from the bigotry and religious intolerance in Texas. Highly recommended for progressive feet!

Sometimes you have to take off your adorable kitten heels and slip on your Mizuno Wave Riders. These are the perfect shoes for kicking Rick Perry's ass. Thanks, Mizuno!

Whether you're running for governor or standing up for women's rights, these shoes really fit the bill! Standing up for 11 hours straight in a room full of men who are telling what to do with your baby-maker is no easy task. Fortunately, the Mizuno Wave Riders are always up to the challenge. They are sturdy enough to kick behind, yet classy enough to look good while doing it. I endorse these shoes!


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

Birth Control Benefits Everyone

This is very true. Birth control has allowed women to take control of their own lives -- and Obamacare has made it cheaper and easier for women to access birth control. Now we need to take the next step, and make oral contraceptives available to all women over-the-counter (without a prescription) like the College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists has recommended. These drugs are not dangerous, and making them available over-the-counter would make it even easier for all women to have access to them.

And there is another benefit not mentioned in the graphic above. Birth control (and medically-accurate education for everyone) eliminates the need for abortions. I have never understood why the anti-choice crowd also oppose birth control. It makes me think they are really anti-woman -- not anti-choice.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Politicians Should Leave Medicine To Doctors

Immigration Bill Passed - But GOP Hurts Themselves As Most Vote Against It

The Senate has passed its immigration reform bill on a 68 to 32 vote, and that bill does have a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants -- although it is a long and onerous path that makes the bill barely acceptable. But the passage of this bill is not likely to help Republicans in future elections, since more than twice as many of them voted against it than voted for it. While 14 Republicans voted for the bill, 32 Republicans voted against it -- showing that the party is still unwilling to give up its anti-immigrant policies (even if it would help them with the fast growing Hispanic population).

All of the senate Democrats voted for the bill, and they were joined by Independents Bernie Sanders (Vermont) and Angus King (Maine). But only 30% of GOP senators voted for the bill, while 70% voted against it. That is not going to impress many Hispanic voters.

Now the bill moves on to the GOP-controlled House, where it has almost no chance of passing. In fact, Speaker Boehner has not even committed to bringing it to the floor for an up or down vote. Even though the Senate made the bill's path to citizenship a very difficult one, it is still not a hard enough path for House Republicans (who really want no path to citizenship at all). The House's GOP members, who must face re-election every two years, are too afraid of angering their racist teabagger base to vote for reform.

But while I still think Congress will not send an immigration reform bill to the president this year, I do want to offer a small pat on the back to the 14 Republican senators who had the political courage to vote for reform. They are:

Lamar Alexander (Tennessee)
Kelly Ayotte (New Hampshire)
Jeff Chiesa (New Jersey)
Susan Collins (Maine)
Bob Corker (Tennessee)
Jeff Flake (Arizona)
Lindsey Graham (South Carolina)
Orrin Hatch (Utah)
Dean Heller (Nevada)
John Hoeven (North Dakota)
Mark Kirk (Illinois)
John McCain (Arizona)
Lisa Murkowski (Alaska)
Marco Rubio (Florida)


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

Perry Embarrasses Himself Again (Oops)

 A few days ago, State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) stood up for women's rights in Texas by filibustering a Republican bill that would have closed 37 out of 42 clinics in the state that perform abortion procedures.

In doing that, she embarrassed both Lt. Gov. Dewhurst and the GOP senators -- who tried to pull every sneaky trick in the book to stop her. They failed, because the Democratic senators and the Crowd in the capitol gallery took up Davis' fight when it looked like her filibuster might fail because of the underhanded tricks of the GOP. Time ran out on the GOP bill, and it died.

Not being smart enough to let sleeping dogs lie, Rick Perry decided he would take up the fight against Senator Davis. And as usual, he took the low road by trying to humiliate Davis instead of trying to engage her on an intellectual level (which he probably couldn't do anyway). He brought up the fact that she had been a single teen mother, and said she evidently had learned nothing from that experience.

Well, he probably should limit himself to arguing with those on his intellectual level (although I admit there are not many politicians on that low a level outside of Perry's own party). Senator Davis (who has a degree from Texas Christian University and a law degree from Harvard University) wasn't about to take Perry's insults. She responded:

"Rick Perry's statement is without dignity and tarnishes the high office he holds. They are small words that reflect a dark and negative point of view. 

Our governor should reflect our Texas values. Sadly, Gov. Perry fails that test."

And then she went on to respond to Perry's calling a new special session to try once again to pass the odious anti-choice bill:

"Misplaced priorities of legislative leaders squandered a tremendous opportunity to make much needed improvements in our transportation infrastructure and help create good jobs and bring businesses to Texas. Despite urging by responsible members of the Senate to bring up the matter of transportation, Lt. Governor David Dewhurst derailed as much as much as $1 billion per year in transportation funding by stubbornly pushing divisive, failed legislation attacking women's health care options. 

If leaders are serious about using this second called special session to improve the lives of Texans by repairing and expanding our transportation networks, they will find no greater ally than me. If they intend to keep pushing their extreme personal political agenda ahead of the interests of Texas families, I will not back off of my duty to fight on their behalf. "

Texas' Bright New Star

Political Cartoon is by John Branch at

The Green Party Response To Obama's Proposals To Slow Global Warming

After fighting Congress for several years and getting nothing done, President Obama has announced some unilateral actions he wants to take. It basically amounts to studying further what kind of impact the XL pipeline would have on the global warming problem before deciding whether to approve it or not, and asking the EPA to propose some new rules on use of coal in energy production. This falls far short of what needs to be done -- and is to little, too slow, and very likely too late.

The Green Party of the United States has published their response to those proposals. Here is that response (released on June 26th), written by Jill Stein (Green Party presidential candidate in 2012):

The Green Shadow Cabinet said today that while President Obama's call for the Environental Protection Agency to strengthen regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants was a long overdue step in the right direction, his “all of the above” approach to energy is still a disaster for the climate.
Dr. Jill Stein, the Green Party's 2012 presidential nominees noted, "You can't give your child an 'all of the above diet' with toxic lead and arsenic, and think that adding some spinach and blueberries is going to make it OK. Likewise, reducing carbon pollution from coal does not make fracking, tar sands oil, deep water and Arctic drilling OK. The climate is spiraling into runaway warming. Obama's promotion of cheap dirty fossil fuels makes coal regulations just window dressing on a disastrous policy."
In addition to its broad concerns on fossil fuel use, the Cabinet strongly opposes the Obama administration's continued push to revitalize the expensive, dangerous, nuclear power industry. The massive subsidies required by the nuclear industry siphon away funds needed to expand renewable energy. Nuclear power still has lethal, unsolvable, long term waste-storage problems. In addition, the White House's proposed plants could not be built in time to have a significant impact on greenhouse gas emissions.
President Obama's proposals fall far short of an urgently-needed Green New Deal to revive the American economy with clean, renewable energy. The Green New Deal would create 25 million jobs, particularly jobs that transition us to a carbon-free economy. It would be paid for through cuts to the military budget, elimination of the $40 billion in subsidies for fossil fuels and nukes, a Wall Street transaction tax yielding $100s of billions in revenue per year, and requiring the wealthy to pay their fair share.
As an example, a recent Stanford University report showed how NY could convert to 100% renewable energy by 2030 in a program that would create jobs and pay for the costs of conversion with health care savings alone. ( "Examining the Feasibility of Converting New York State's All-Purpose Energy Infrastructure to One Using Wind, Water and Sunlight", co-authored by Stanford University Professor Mark Jacobson,)
The Cabinet also pointed to Germany’s energy transformation, (Energiewende), that shifts from nuclear and fossil fuels to renewables. Thanks in large part to its Green Party, Germany will cut greenhouse-gas emissions by 40% relative to 1990 levels by 2020. By comparison, the goals set by President Obama translate to only a 4% cut in emissions - about one-tenth of the German commitment. The Cabinet also calls for a feed-in tariff program that Germany has used to create a vibrant renewable energy sector – benefitting small businesses, homeowners, farmers and communities - by insuring profitable rates for renewable power. This has helped fuel Germany’s vigorous economy, and put renewable energy technology on track to be the major employment sector in the nation within the decade.
To help put us on a similar path, the Green Shadow Cabinet calls for Congress to impose fees on the use of carbon. In addition, the federal government should also use its immense purchasing power to drive the development of clean renewable energy, conservation and efficiency.
EPA should accelerate and increase fuel efficiency standards. Under the Clean Air Act, it should phase out the use of HFCs and replace them with alternatives that protect the ozone layer without contributing to greenhouse gas emissions. Under the Clean Water Act, it should set standards for acid pollution in water to reduce the negative impact carbon dioxide has on coral, plankton, shell fish and other marine animals.  It should approve the petition by the Center for Biological Diversity to revise water quality criteria in light of new scientific information about ocean acidification, adopting a criterion for pH stating: “For marine waters, pH should not deviate measurably from naturally occurring pH levels as a result of absorption of anthropogenic carbon dioxide.”
The Cabinet challenged Obama's escalating development of extreme fossil fuels that has been the major focus of “all of the above” - mountain top removal of coal, fracked oil and gas, deep water and Arctic drilling, and tar sands oil. The world already has five times as much oil, coal and gas available as climate scientists say the atmosphere can tolerate if global temperature rise is to stay below the internationally accepted limit of two degrees Celsius.  So rather than drill for more fossil fuels, we must keep 80 percent of those reserves locked away safely underground to avoid a climate disaster. In order to achieve this, and protect the climate for everyone rather than corporate profits for a few, we need to consider making energy a democratically-controlled public utility, with a mission to take us from fossil fuels to renewables at least cost.  
Steve Breyman, EPA Adminstrator for the Green Shadow Cabinet, noted that, "Obama's 'all of the above' energy strategy is unrealistic and cowardly. It's overly expensive and unscientific. It ignores climate change and generates waste that remains dangerous for a thousand generations. Rather than face up to even a single powerful industry--nuclear, coal, oil, or gas--the President punted. Actually, he went golfing with fossil fuel company executives. We end up having to fight the Keystone XL pipeline, with the likelihood that the President will ultimately approve it, paving the way to full exploitation of the Canadian tar sands, a development called 'game over' for the climate by James Hansen."
Breyman added that, "International leadership, a major theme of the President's speech, is only possible when national policy is at the leading edge. Unfortunately, Obama has yet to match the carbon reduction policies we see in other countries, including China, the world's other global warming superpower. The U.S. has been both the major contributor to climate change and the major denier of the need for action at both the domestic and international level. Enacting policies proposed by the Green Shadow Cabinet would put America in a good position to lead internationally.”
Stein concluded her comments by stating that, “The fact that 80% of climate warming has occurred since 1980 shows how this crisis is accelerating. We now have unprecedented storms, permanent drought ("megadrought") in the American southwest, and just witnessed three major forest fires in California and Colorado in springtime that would normally happen only after a long hot dry summer. In short, we don't have time for false assurance while climate catastrophe continues to escalate.“
“The American people understand that real progress on climate is urgently needed, and support this in poll after poll. The obstacle to progress is the American political establishment - bought and paid for by fossil fuel companies and closely allied Wall Street interests.” Obama himself was the third largest recipient of campaign donations from the oil and gas industry in the last election cycle, receiving more than $800,000.
"The question of the hour is not how to persuade the American people to do the right thing on climate. It's how to force our hijacked political establishment to act in our interests - for the climate, and for our economy. Congress and the President continue to throw us under the bus on both counts, inflicting austerity on everyday people - cutting Medicare, social security, schools, etc. - while they squander trillions on wars, Wall Street bailouts and tax giveaways for the wealthy," said Stein.
“We cannot wait to reclaim our children’s future – and our future. We must act now. If Obama won’t lead, the people will find a way to provide that leadership. It’s not the President’s legacy that’s at stake. It’s ours.”

Justice And Freedom

Political Cartoon is by Nate Beeler in The Columbus Dispatch.

It's Tour de France Time Again !

Regular readers of this blog will know that the Tour de France is one of my favorite sporting events of the year. I love the courage, endurance, and athleticism displayed in this nearly month-long event.

This year's race will mark the 100th running of the Tour de France bicycle race. The race will have 21 separate stages, and will cover a total of 3,479 kilometers. There will be 7 flat stages, 5 hilly stages, 6 mountain stages, 2 time trials, and 1 team time trial. The race will start for the first time on Corsica (where the first 3 stages will be run). Stage 1 will be tomorrow, June 29th, and the final stage will be on Sunday, July 21st.

Awards will be given for the overall winner with the best time (yellow jersey), the best sprinter (green jersey), the best climber in the mountains (polka dot jersey), the best young rider (white jersey), and the best team with the fastest overall combined time.

As usual, I will be making daily posts -- giving you the first three finishers of each stage, plus the combined running totals for the yellow, green, polka dot, and white jerseys, along with the team standings. If the race doesn't interest you, then skip these daily posts -- and rest assured that I will also be making my regular posts.

This year there are 22 teams that will compete. Here is the list of teams, along with the country they represent:

AG2R La Mondiale (France)
Astana (Kazakhstan)
Blanco (Netherlands)
BMC Racing (United States)
Cannondale (Italy)
Cofidis (France)
Euskaltel-Euskadi (Spain)
FDJ (France)
Garmin-Sharp (United States)
Katusha (Russia)
Lampre-Merida (Italy)
Lotto-Belisol (Belgium)
Movistar (Spain)
Omega Pharma-Quick Step (Belgium)
Orica Greenedge (Australia)
Radioshack Leopard (Luxembourg)
Sky Procycling (Great Britain)
Sojasun (France)
Argos-Shimano (Netherlands)
Europcar (France)
Saxo-Tinkoff (Denmark)
Vacansoleil-DCM (Netherlands)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tax Dollars And Welfare Queens

Two New Political Stars And A Raucous Crowd Combine To Defeat GOP's Insidious Attack On Choice In Texas

Texas Democrats have been a dispirited bunch for a long time now. It has been more than twenty years since a Democrat held statewide office, and prospects for the future seemed dim because there were really no politicians in the party with true statewide appeal. That changed dramatically on Tuesday night, when a couple of female State Senators put themselves in the limelight to stop an odious anti-choice bill that would have closed 37 out of 42 clinics in the state that do abortion procedures -- and in the process they inspired and renewed thousands of Democrats across the state.

The new Texas political stars are Sen. Wendy Davis and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte (both are pictured in the top picture). Davis got the ball rolling by declaring she would filibuster the bill (which had to be approved by midnight, when the session ended, or it would die). She got the floor about 11:15am and began her filibuster -- and then she held the floor for over 10 hours. She was helped by the other 11 Democratic senators who lobbed her "softball" questions to keep her filibuster growing, but the real work of the filibuster was on her capable shoulders -- and she performed admirably.

With only a couple of hours to go before midnight, the Republican majority was able to stop her by claiming for the third time that she was not being germane to the bill with her discourse. It was not true, but truth or rules have never been very important to Texas Republicans. The the other 11 Democratic senators stepped forward with a barrage of parliamentary maneuvers (points of order, parliamentary questions, etc.).

One of the most prominent of these senators who sprang to the defense of Se. Davis was Sen. Van de Putte. And with only about 15 minutes until midnight, she challenges the senate president by demanding to know "At what point must a female senator raise her hand or her voice to be recognized over her male colleagues". The crowd in the gallery began to applaud her, and that applause turned into more than twenty minutes of shouting and applauding that delayed a vote on the GOP bill.

With time running out, the GOP tried to hold their vote -- but as Democratic senators pointed out the vote was not finished before midnight, and by Texas law, the session was over at midnight. This caused a big mess -- as Republicans claimed the bill was passed since the vote started before midnight, and the Democrats claimed the bill was dead since the vote was not finished before midnight. And the official senate record backed Democrats, showing the bill was passed on 6/26 and not on 6/25 as required. The Republicans then tried to fix that by illegally altering the senate record (see below).

The top picture shows the original senate lot, and the bottom shows the log after being altered by Republicans. The senators then argued among themselves for a while -- and about 3am the Republicans backed down and admitted the bill had been passed after midnight, which means the bill was DEAD.

The governor may call another special session and get the bill passed (even if they have to lock the public out and do it in secret). But for right now, the bill is dead. And the Republicans did nothing good for their image, since their shenanigans were observed by hundreds of thousands of Texans and other Americans. I watched the proceedings on the Texas Tribune's live YouTube feed. More than 182,000 people watched on that feed, but that was just a portion of those watching the proceedings, since there were approximately 199 other live feeds -- not to mention all the traffic on social media like Twitter and Facebook.

And while the Republicans were humiliated, thousands of Texas Democrats (and others) were energized -- and Sen. Wendy Davis and Sen. Leticia Van de Putte were able to increase their political capital immensely. They are now both credible candidates for statewide office. And combined with the new statewide Democratic effort to register new voters, this means Democratic prospects in Texas are brighter than they have been in many years.

To put it bluntly, it was a great night for Texas Democrats and a terrible night for Texas Republicans.


NOTE -- Yesterday, the teabagger governor of Texas said he was calling a second special session of the Texas legislature. Three issues are on the agenda -- transportation funding and juvenile justice (both of which died in the last session because Republicans wasted the whole 30-day session trying to shut down the state's abortion clinics), and of course, the same old anti-choice legislation that was filibustered to death in that first session. He seems determined to keep the issue alive, and give Democrats something to make sure their supporters remain energized and engaged.

The Path

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

Justices Partially Redeem Themselves

A couple of days ago, the Supreme Court took a step backwards in ensuring all Americans have equal rights when they gutted the Voting Rights Act -- a move that will allow racists and crooked politicians to deny or restrict the voting rights of minorities (and others they think will vote against them). It was a sad day for democracy in America.

But on Wednesday, that same Supreme Court partially redeemed themselves, and took a couple of steps forward on the equal rights front. The court released their decisions on the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) and on California's Proposition 8.

Proposition 8 was the law that banned same-sex marriages in that state. An appeals court had struck down the law, saying it had denied same-sex couples equal rights. That decision was appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court by some individuals who wanted the law re-instituted. The court dodged the issue of whether Prop 8 was constitutional or not, and simply upheld the appeals court decision -- saying those who had appealed the decision did not have the legal standing to do so.

It was a 5-4 decision -- with Justices Roberts, Scalia, Ginsburg, Breyer, and Kagan voted in the majority (a strange mix of conservatives and liberals). Justices voting in the minority were Kennedy, Thomas, Alito, and Sotomayor. The decision (or perhaps more appropriately, the non-decision) does mean that same-sex marriages can now resume in California.

The Supreme Court also struck down DOMA -- the federal law that prevented the federal government from extending equal protection and rights to same-sex married couples as to opposite-sex married couples. The majority said DOMA denied equal protection by violating the due process clause of the 5th Amendment of the United States Constitution. This means the federal government must now give same-sex married couples the same rights and privileges they grant to heterosexual married couples (on taxation, health care, pensions, etc.). Writing for the majority, Justice Kennedy said:

Although Congress has great authority to design laws to fit its own conception of sound national policy, it cannot deny the liberty protected by the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment. . .

For same-sex couples who wished to be married, the state (of New York) acted to give their lawful conduct a lawful status. This status is a far-reaching legal acknowledgment of the intimate relationship between two people, a relationship deemed by the state worthy of dignity in the community equal with all other marriages. DOMA seeks to injure the very class New York seeks to protect.

This was also a 5-4 decision. Those justices voting in the majority were Kennedy, Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan. The minority justices were Scalia, Roberts, Thomas, and Alito.

The court could have decided that banning same-sex marriages was unconstitutional, but they stopped short of doing that. Their decision is only applicable in states where same-sex marriage is legal. While this is still a major victory for equal rights, it is only half the victory that it could have been. It means the battle must still be fought on a state-by-state basis -- and the fight for equal rights is still far from over.

But both decisions are victories -- and should be celebrated as such. After all, the court (as they demonstrated with the Voting Rights Act) could have made a much worse decision.

Freeing Discrimination

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

Texas Executes 500th Person Since 1982

Yesterday, the state of Texas executed it's 500th person since they restored the death penalty in 1982 (about 30 years). That's an average of nearly 17 executions every year. About 40% of all executions in the United States (slightly more than 1,300) were performed in Texas -- making it the most blood-thirsty state in the Union, by far.

This time, Texas executed a woman -- Kimberly McCarthy (pictured at the left). McCarthy was killed because she was convicted of killing a 71 year-old woman (her neighbor, a retired college professor) in a 1997 robbery in Lancaster, Texas. It was a horrific crime, as she killed the elderly lady by attacking her with a butcher knife and a candelabra.

I make no excuses for McCarthy. She committed a vicious crime and deserved to be punished. But I still think it is wrong for the state to punish killing by killing. It doesn't reduce crime, and it sends a bad message to people (that killing is OK). Wouldn't life without parole have been just as effective a sentence? Couldn't the state have punished this woman while sending a message about the sanctity of a human life (all human life)?

This officially-sanctioned killing was done on behalf of all the citizens of the state of Texas. That means for the 500th time, our state government has made us all killers. I'm ashamed. Justice can be served without killing anyone.

Upending Hard-Won Rights

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

Offensive ?

Sadly, this is very true. There are so many terrible things in this world to be offended by -- things that destroy people and lives. And yet, for far too many people in our society, the most offensive things are words and gestures -- insignificant things that truly have very little real meaning. Why do we give such great importance to things that don't matter, and ignore the things that matter greatly?

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

In Their Robes (And Hoods)

Not Racist ?

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

Supreme Court Tosses Out Equal Voting Rights Protections For Minorities

The Supreme Court death a serious blow to the Voting Rights Act in their latest decision (announced on Tuesday). They invalidated Section 4 of that law -- the section that designated the states and localities that must pre-clear any changes to voting laws and procedures with the Justice Department before they can take effect. These localities were designated because they had a history of denying equal voting rights and representation to minorities.

The court threw out Section 4 because they said it was still using 1972 facts to determine those states and localities -- facts that may no longer be a reality. The court left Section 5 intact -- the section that actually calls for pre-clearance. But that section is useless without a designation of what states and localities it is required of.

The court did say that Congress could rewrite Section 4, using more modern facts/circumstances. But any hope of Congress doing that is nonexistent -- because the Republicans (who control the House and have the filibuster in the Senate) are the ones who were trying to get both Section 4 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act declared unconstitutional. Now that they have succeeded, they are not going to update Section 4 so that the law can again be both constitutional and effect in protecting minority rights. They will kill any attempt to rewrite Section 4.

And they will do it because they don't want minorities to have equal voting rights -- both because of the large number of racists in their voting base, and because they know that those minorities are not voting for their party (because of the GOP's anti-minority and anti-immigrant policies).

This pretty much leaves the Voting Rights Act as a nice idea, but an idea which cannot be enforced. I know that many right-wingers will claim that the law is no longer needed, but that is simply not true. Racism is alive and well in this country and many of those who pass and oversee voting laws in this country are racist. Their actions will not be as blatant as past actions denying voting rights, but their effect will be the same -- to curtail or deny voting rights to minorities (and other groups that tend not to vote for Republicans).

Any thought that this will not happen (and happen quickly) were dashed within hours of the court's announcement of their decision. Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has already announced that Texas will re-institute both their old re-districting plan and their unfair Voter ID law -- both of which had been declared to be in violation of the Voter Rights Act, because they discriminated against minorities. Undoubtably, many other GOP-controlled states will follow suit. The Republicans showed with their actions leading up to the last election, that if they can't win voters over they will deny them the right to vote (or at least make it much harder for them to vote).

The court's decision was a giant step backward for equal rights in the United States. It is just sad that the Supreme Court, the institution created to protect citizen rights, is now they tool the right-wingers have used to deny those rights.

Bad Decision

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at

IRS Scandal Is Not A Scandal After All

About a month ago, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) "scandal" hit the headlines in the mainstream media. It seems that there were some at the IRS who were supposedly targeting right-wing groups, and giving them special audits or investigations just because they happened to be right-wing political organizations. At the time, I wrote a post saying that the targeting of political groups by the IRS just because of their political leanings was wrong.

I still believe that is wrong (whether those groups are on the right or the left of the political spectrum). The government simply has too much power, and any special targeting of a political group would tend to suppress political thought and action of those with similar views. After all, few things are as scary as the federal government, with its almost unlimited power, snooping around in your affairs.

But now we know a whole lot more about the supposed "scandal". And it turns out that the IRS was not just looking at right-wing groups. They were also looking at progressive political groups. And they weren't trying to suppress those groups of either persuasion -- but just trying to make sure those groups were following the tax laws. Many of the groups had filed as a tax free social organization (meaning they could not take sides in a political election -- much the same restrictions as churches have to keep their tax-free status).

The IRS was just trying to determine whether these were political organizations, who were lying to the government so they wouldn't have to pay any taxes. And that is not only proper -- it is the job the IRS is supposed to be doing. I really don't have any problem with the IRS checking these groups (both right and left) to make sure they are not violating the law (and their tax-free status) by engaging in partisan politics.

In fact, I think the investigations should be widened extensively -- to include all of the fundamentalist churches who openly engaged in partisan politics leading up to the 2012 election. If those churches (or any other groups) want to play around in partisan politics, then they should be stripped of their tax-free status.

Bringing Them Down

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at