Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Medicare Is 48 Years Old

Early Presidential Preference

I know it's still way too early, but I find this sort of thing to be quite interesting. This is the latest survey done by Public Policy Polling on the presidential candidates preferred by members of both political parties. The poll was done between July 19th and 21st of 500 republican and 418 Democratic voters nationwide -- and has a margin of error of 4.3 points for the Republican poll and 4.7 points for the Democratic poll.

The Democratic side is pretty much the same as it has been. Hillary Clinton has a very large lead (52%), with Biden in second place (12%). Everyone else ranges between 2% and 6%. Unless something remarkable happens, Clinton is a shoo-in if she decides to run.

The Republican side is much more interesting, and has shown some movement already. Back in April, Marco Rubio had a lead with 21% in this poll. He is now down to 10%, and is in sixth place. The new leader is Rand Paul with 16%, followed closely by Ryan, Bush, and Christie tied at 13% -- and Cruz, who has climbed to 12%. I think there'll be a lot more movement in this poll before the race really starts.

But for me, the best thing of all is that Rick Perry is not even polling well enough to be listed in the survey. Maybe people are starting to figure out what a mess he has made in Texas.

From The Middle Out

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

The Bradley Manning Verdict

(This photo of Bradley Manning is by the U.S. Army, and was found at Wikipedia.)

The official verdict in the Bradley Manning trial was sort of a mixed bag. The judge found him innocent of aiding the enemy, but guilty of six counts of violating the Espionage Act. Of course, this brings up the question of who he had performed that espionage for. If it wasn't the enemy, then who did he do it for? There is no evidence that Manning released the information on behalf of any other country.

The truth is that he did it for the citizens of this nation -- the United States of America. He did not endanger any military personnel. He simply exposed the lies our government had been telling, by giving the American people the truth. And that makes the charges of espionage rather ludicrous, since in a representative democracy the government is the people. His only real crime was in embarrassing the elected leaders of this country, and sadly, that is a crime those leaders consider to be unforgivable.

Now we wait to see what Manning's punishment will be. I could see him being kicked out of the Army (with whatever kind of discharge they want to give him), but I don't think he should have to spend any more time in prison. He did nothing to hurt this country. Of course, he's not being punished for hurting the country. He's being punished for embarrassing elected officials -- and that means he will probably get a long prison sentence.

Standing Their Ground

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

Choice - It's The South Vs. Rest Of The U.S.

I found this information from the Pew Research Center to be very interesting. They combined the results from their own recent survey with surveys from others, and verify that Americans still support a woman's right to control her own body (top chart). But the most interesting part was the regional divide on the issue.

They divided the country into eight geographical regions (bottom chart), and six of those regions clearly support a woman's right to choose. One region, the Midwest, is split right down the middle on the issue -- with 47% on each side. There is only one region that opposes choice significantly -- the South-Central region (Texas, Tennessee, Oklahoma, Mississippi, Louisiana, Kentucky, Alabama, and Arkansas). These states have a 12 point margin opposing choice.

I guess this shouldn't surprise anyone. These are also the states with the largest number of people without a high school education, and the largest number of poor people. They do a bad job of taking care of their own, but still want to tell the rest of America what it should be doing. And of course, they are all controlled by Republicans.

A Matter Of Perspective

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Thoughts On Rush Limbaugh

(The caricature of Limbaugh on the left is from the inimitable DonkeyHotey.)

Let me preface my remarks by saying that I have never liked Rush Limbaugh very much. He has spent years trying to divide this country, and vilifying anyone with the temerity to disagree with his vicious right-wing politics. And while the Constitution guarantees him the right to spread his vile hate speech, I personally consider him to be a nasty and infected boil on the butt of our society.

But I also don't think he's going away any time soon. Much has been made in some liberal blogs (and on Facebook) recently about the story at that says he could be dropped by Cumulus Media's 40 stations that carry him. I don't know if this threat by Cumulus to drop Limbaugh (and Sean Hannity) is just a negotiating ploy to lower what they currently pay Clear Channel to air Limbaugh's show, or whether Cumulus is just tired of the controversy surrounding Limbaugh.

What is obvious is that Cumulus has lost a ton of money, thanks to an effective boycott that has caused over 1200 national advertisers to drop their support of the show -- and demanded that their advertising no longer appear on that show (or on Hannity's show). While some of those advertisers may agree with the hateful ideas Limbaugh propagates, they care a lot more about making money -- and they are not about to let the controversy surrounding Limbaugh affect their profit margin. And the same is true of Cumulus Media. They are not in business to lose money.

Cumulus may decide to continue carrying Limbaugh's show, but if they do it will be at a much, much lower price. And if they drop Limbaugh, Clear Channel will likely find other channels to carry him -- but that will also be at a much lower price. The golden days are over for Limbaugh, and his next contract with Clear Channel (if there is one) will be for far less money than his previous contract.

The boycott of Limbaugh's advertisers has been very effective -- and it should continue. While Limbaugh has the constitutional right to spew his hate, other people have the right to oppose that. But if Cumulus does drop him, that does not mean it's the end of his show. However, it might be the beginning of the end -- and for now, that's enough.

This Makes Me Feel Old

Political Cartoon is by Randy Bish in the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review.

Poll Verifies U.S. Supports Equal Rights

Results are from a Gallup Poll conducted between July 10th and 14th of 2,027 nationwide adults -- with a margin of error of 3 points.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Deniers Are Playing Very Poor Odds

Shorter Average Work Week Is Not Good

(The chart above is from the website of CNNMoney.)

"Americans are working far less now than they did a generation ago, and have more leisure time than ever."

That's a quote from Steve Hargreaves writing for CNNMoney. Sounds great doesn't it? Well, it's not as good as it sounds, because it also means that more Americans are working for less money. The primary reason for this drop in the average work week is the explosion of new part-time jobs. As businesses start to replace workers who lost millions of jobs in the Great Recession, many of those new jobs are now part-time jobs -- jobs where businesses can pay less and deny benefits (like health care or a pension plan).

We have already seen that the median income in the U.S. is dropping, and many Americans are dropping out of the middle class. And one of the big reasons for both is this replacement of good full-time jobs with either minimum wage or part-time jobs. In fact, most of the jobs created in this "recovery" have been either minimum wage or part-time jobs -- neither of which will support a family.

It really doesn't benefit a family to have more leisure time, if it is accompanied by a drop in income (and a loss of benefits). Leisure activities cost money (like everything else in our society), and too many Americans are still mired in the after-effects of the recession -- having to use that extra "leisure time" to mount a continuing, and many times futile effort, to find full-time work that will give them a livable wage.

The recession is truly over for the rich and the corporations. They are now making more money than ever before. But it is not over for those on Main Street. That's because businesses are using the high unemployment to cut wages, cut hours, and deny benefits -- leaving workers with little choice but to accept falling wages, disappearing benefits, fewer hours, or unemployment. And we are not talking about just a few workers, but about 90% of the population.

How much longer are we going to put up with this? It certainly won't be fixed by cutting taxes for the rich and the corporations, or by taking money out of the economy through "austerity" -- the only "solutions" the Republicans have offered. It will only be turned around by increasing the minimum wage (to at least $10 an hour), strengthening labor unions and making it easier for workers to organize, stopping the outsourcing of good American jobs (by eliminating tax breaks and instituting tax penalties for that outsourcing), and putting more money into the economy to increase demand (by spending more on education, research, social programs, and rebuilding our infrastructure).

Right-wingers will whine that we can't afford to do those things, but they are wrong. The corporations and the rich are paying lower taxes than ever, and they need to pay a little more. And our bloated military budget could be cut substantially, since it is ridiculous that we spend close to half of all the money spent on military matters in the entire world. We could cut that budget in half, and still be spending more than any other nation on earth -- friend or enemy.

Our economic problems could be fixed. But it won't be fixed by those currently in Congress. The Republicans don't want to fix them (since their primary constituency, the rich & corporations, are doing great), and too many Democrats are too timid to rock the boat (being afraid they won't be re-elected if they do).

The Excuse

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in The Hartford Courant.

Secrecy Is A Terrible Idea In A Democracy

(The cartoon above is by Jeff Parker and was published in Florida Today.)

Sometimes it seem like our elected officials would rather we didn't have an open and democratic form of government. They would rather perform their duties in secret -- because they either don't believe in democracy, or lack the political courage to legislate in an open and free forum. It doesn't matter which of those is true, because it is just a fact that secrecy is the enemy of democracy.

That's one of the primary reasons that free speech and free press were rights included in our Constitution's First Amendment. Our forefathers understood that for a democracy to work, the people must know what their elected officials are doing. This is an understanding that many of our current elected officials don't seem to understand.

And it looks like many of those politically ignorant officials are in the United States Senate. The Senate Finance Committee is currently considering reforms to our current tax code. But they want any ideas put forward by individual senators to be kept secret FOR 50 YEARS. They have decided those ideas could not be revealed to the public until at least December 31, 2064.

This idea of keeping the ideas on tax reform by senators secret is not only outrageous -- it is downright stupid. The American people have a right to know what their senators are doing. They have a right to know not only what the final bill looks like, but also what the individual senators are proposing and want included in that final bill. And any senator too cowardly to publicly state his/her ideas is not worthy of the office he/she holds -- and should resign immediately so the voters can elect someone with political courage (and better ideas).

I know there are those who think this initial secrecy will allow senators the freedom to consider all ideas. I disagree. It is important that democratic government be conducted in an open manner -- and that citizens are able to see what their representatives are proposing. And frankly, any idea a senator is afraid to propose publicly is probably a bad idea anyway.

Fortunately, a few senators are unwilling to play this silly game of secrecy. One of those is Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont). Sanders has turned down the committee's offer to keep his suggestions secret, and has even published his suggestions on his web site. You can go to that site for a more in-depth analysis of his proposals, but here are his basic ideas:

Stop large corporations from stashing their profits in the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens to avoid paying U.S. taxes.

Establish a Wall Street speculation fee to ensure that large financial institutions pay their fair share in taxes.

End tax breaks and subsidies for big oil, gas and coal companies.

Tax capital gains and dividends the same as work.  

I like his proposals, and they would add $1.5 trillion in revenues over the next 10 years. I would also like to hear what the other senators are proposing, whether on the left or right politically. I think all of us deserve to know that. Don't you?

No Labels

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

Texas Loses Court Battle Against EPA

(This public domain image is from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.)

It is an unquestionable fact that Texas leads all other states in the amount of pollution it dumps into our nation's air. In fact, if Texas was a country, it would be the 7th largest polluting country in the world.  And the state leads in both total pollution and pollution by greenhouse gases. The responsibility for this rests with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). This Republican-dominated commission is responsible for issuing permits and controlling pollution in the state -- but it usually just rubber stamps whatever industry wants to do, including the energy producers in the state.

In 2010, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed new rules to rein in some of the massive amounts of greenhouse gases being dumped into the air. At that time, they asked the TCEQ to be stricter in the requirements to get a state permit, and to include greenhouse gases in those requirements. The state refused to comply, saying they had the sole authority to issue permits -- and had neither the desire nor the authority to control greenhouse gases.

To their credit, the EPA did not accept that. And since the state would not take action to meet the national standards, they decided to do it for them. The EPA took over the issuing of permits, making sure that the new pollution rules (including the greenhouse gases rules) were considered before any permits were issued. The state objected, and Attorney General Greg Abbott sued the EPA.

Last Friday, a 3-judge panel of the U.S. (D.C.) Court of Appeals ruled against Texas on a 2 to 1 vote. The court ruled the state "has failed to show how it had been injured", and had no standing to bring the case. The EPA will now be permitted to continue it monitoring of and issuance of permits in Texas (and a few other states that also didn't comply).

I wouldn't doubt the state will probably try to appeal this verdict -- either to the full D.C. Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. Although the Republicans running state government whine constantly that the state doesn't have enough money, they always seem to have the millions needed to fight for their corporate buddies.

But for right now, this is a victory -- both for the EPA, and for the people of the United States. The EPA is right. It is time for Texas to follow the rules.

Chinese Product Center

Political Cartoon is by Mike Thompson in the Detroit Free Press.

An Audacious Dream

That is audacity -- to think that every American should have equality, freedom, opportunity, and decent living conditions. But it sounds a bit like the audacious dream the founders of this country had. Maybe someday we will actually live up to that dream.

Monday, July 29, 2013

From Henry Rollins

4 Out Of 5 Americans Experience Poverty

We already know that a record number of Americans currently live in poverty -- about 46.2 million people (or about 15% of the population). For children, it is even worse -- with slightly more than 20% (1 out of every 5) living in poverty. And these numbers aren't going down, but stubbornly remaining high.

But it gets worse. Census figures show that half of all Americans either live in poverty, or have an income less than 50% above the poverty line (which means they are only a paycheck or two from dropping into poverty themselves. And now a new Associated Press survey shows an even more shocking fact -- that 79% of Americans (about 4 out of 5) have experienced poverty for at least a year by the time they reach the age of 60.

Folks, this is a picture of a nation (and an economy) in deep trouble. This same survey lists the main causes of this to be the loss of American jobs, and the widening gap in income between the rich and the rest of America.

And what is Congress doing about this problem. Nothing. The Democrats would like to create new jobs by rebuilding the nation's infrastructure, increase education and social program funding to give the poor and disadvantaged a step up, stop the exporting of American jobs, and pay for this by making sure rich Americans and corporations pay their share of taxes. But the Republicans have blocked all of these efforts.

The Republican "solutions" are to cut government spending and cut taxes for the rich and the corporations -- both of which would just make the problem worse. Cutting spending in this troubled economy would just take money out of the economy -- depressing demand, which would then depress job creation. And lowering taxes for the rich and corporations would just widen the gap between the rich and the rest of America -- shrinking the middle class and put this country on a path to third world status (where there are only the "haves" and "have-nots").

The Republicans refuse to give up their shared delusion that whatever is good for the rich is good for all Americans. That has never been true, but it is the basis for all of their economic policies. And it is one more reason (among many) why they must be voted out of power in the 2014 election. Failure to do so will just mean more years of economic struggling for 90% of Americans.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Political Cartoon is by Steve Greenberg at

Lie Of Texas GOP - It's To Protect Women

(This image of an ancient Roman childbirth is from the website

It's fairly easy to tell when a Texas Republican is lying -- it's when their lips are moving. The latest outrageous lie was the one they told to get their anti-woman and anti-choice bill through the special section (which closed down 37 out of 42 Texas clinics that did abortion procedures). The GOP said it was to protect women's health. Not true. What they did was to put women in more danger than before.

All one has to do is look at the statistics to see this. The rate of women's death from an abortion procedure is 0.6 per 100,000, while the rate for women's deaths in childbirth ranges between 8.8 and 12.7 depending on the study used. It is far more dangerous for a woman to carry a child to term.

But it gets even worse. Childbirth deaths of a mother have been rising in the United States. The CIA Factbook lists the United States as 48th in lowest number of deaths from childbirth. Amnesty International say the U.S. is 50th. That puts us behind every other developed nation (and a few others), in spite of spending twice as much money on childbirth. And in Texas, the rate is far worse than other states -- a 24.63 rate per 100,000 women.

The GOP now acts like it is worried about women's health -- and they are spending money to find out why the Texas rate is so high. What they should do is look in the mirror -- that's where they'd see the biggest cause. And it's not just this latest anti-woman bill. The previous legislature also decided to not give funds to Planned Parenthood and other clinics for the poor (even though most of them did not perform abortions. It was a political move designed to appeal to their right-wing base -- but it resulted in clinics closing that offered thousands of Texas women their only access to health care.

By closing health clinics across the state (by slashing or eliminating their funding), and by refusing to expand Medicaid, the state GOP has assured that many poor women will not have access to proper health care. It is more than disingenuous for them to now say they care about women's health. It is obvious that they care far more about their religious dogma and political ideology than the health of Texas women.

Misplaced Priority

Political Cartoon is by Matt davies at

Bernie On Class War

As usual, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is absolutely correct. A class war exists, but it was not declared against the rich. It is the rich who went to war with the rest of America -- and the results have been devastating. It is time for the bottom 90% to fight back.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

What Do Atheists Want ?

Americans Say NO To Obamacare Repeal

The Republicans in Congress are banking on their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) to convince voters to re-elect them in 2014. And they like to point to polls to show they are on solid ground. After all, several polls (like the Gallup Poll that showed 54% opposed Obamacare) have shown that a majority don't like Obamacare.

But those polls, and the Republicans touting them, have not dug deep enough to get to the truth of the matter. There is a significant portion of the electorate that, if asked whether they support Obamacare, will say no -- but they don't want it repealed. They want it strengthened. I am one of those people. If asked, I would have to admit that I don't like Obamacare. That's because I don't think it went nearly far enough in trying to fix our broken health care system. And it's respondents like me that have made these polls give the false impression that most people want Obamacare to be repealed.

I don't want Obamacare to be repealed, and neither do the others who think it didn't go far enough. While it did not fix all of the problems inherent in our health care system, it did fix a few of them -- and fixing some things is much better than fixing nothing. Most polls have just been asking the wrong question.

A new poll is out that asks the right questions -- the United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection Poll (conducted between July 18th and 21st of 1,000 nationwide adults -- with a margin of error of 3.6 points). This poll asked people whether they would prefer to see Obamacare repealed, whether they would prefer to wait and see how it worked, or whether they would like to strengthen it (see bottom chart above).

The results were that a majority wanted to either wait and see how it worked (30%), or to strengthen it right now (27%). This means that 57% of the public do not want to see Obamacare repealed, while only 36% would like it repealed (and 7% are unsure). I think this poll more closely represents the feelings of the general public -- because it allows people like me to register our dissatisfaction with Obamacare not going far enough, without being misunderstood (thinking we favor repeal).

The truth is that most Americans don't want Obamacare repealed -- and that includes many of us who didn't think it went nearly far enough. The Republicans are just engaging in self-delusion if they think their attempts to repeal Obamacare will help them at the polls in 2014.

The Chasm

Political Cartoon is by Steve Benson in the Arizona Republic.

Are Genetically-Modified Foods Bad ?

(The cartoon image above is by Peter Schrank, and appeared in The Economist on 2/25/2010.)

I'm probably going to make some of my liberal friends mad with this post. But my purpose in writing this blog is not to placate anyone, but to tell the truth as I see it.

There is a debate raging in this country (and the world) right now over genetically-modified foods (commonly called GMO's). Corporate entities like Monsanto say the GMO's are safe and want to rush them to the market, while many on the left say they are inherently unsafe and should be banned. I have always suspected that the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.

Humans have been genetically-modifying foods since the invention of farming many centuries ago. Almost all of the foods we eat today have been modified. For instance, the original wheat plant had a very tiny head of grain and the original tomato was about the size of a thumbnail. Both were modified through genetic cross-breeding of the plants to produce the vegetables we enjoy today.

The difference is that in the past this genetic-modification took a long time through the process of cross-breeding to achieve the desirable result, while today it is done much faster through gene-splicing in a laboratory. Does that mean the new way is unsafe? Not necessarily.

One of the best things I have read on this issue comes from the writer of a blog called Saul of Hearts. The writer identifies himself this way:

I'm a crazy hippie.  I go to Burning Man every year.  I teach yoga.  I live in a co-op.  For the past two years I've been delivering organic vegetables for a local delivery service.  I've been eating vegetarian for years, and vegan for the past four months.

I'm also fascinated by genetics.  I read every book that comes my way on evolutionary theory, population genetics, and mapping the genome.  I took several classes on the subject at the University of Pennsylvania.  All told, I have a pretty solid understanding of how genes work.
The writer has written an excellent post on this subject, and I urge you to go over and read the entire post. I am reprinting here only a part of that post that I consider especially important -- a discussion of 3 common myths being circulated about GMO's. Here is what was written about these myths:
1. GMOs create more "unnatural" mutations than traditional breeding methods.
    Genetic manipulation is nothing new.  Humans have been breeding plants and animals for thousands of years.  Many of our staple crops (wheat, corn, soy), would not exist without human intervention.  The same goes for domesticated farm species.
    Whether we're using genetic modification or selective breeding, we're playing God either way.  But some people seem to think that selective breeding is "safer" -- that it allows less opportunity for damaging mutations than genetic engineering does.  This couldn't be more wrong.
    The entire process of evolution is dependent upon mutation.  UV radiation changes the structure of the DNA code in each individual organism.  Most of these mutations aren't beneficial.  Some leave out necessary proteins.  Others add useless information.  And yet, a percentage of these "errors" are helpful enough that they're passed along to future generations and become the new normal.
    If there's any danger with genetic engineering, it's that we can be too precise in our manipulation.  We can ensure that each new generation of seeds contains the exact same DNA sequence, double-checked for errors and mutations eliminated.  The "unnatural" process actually produces less mutations, not more.
2. GMOs contain animal DNA that has been "spliced" into plants.
    One of the most enduring myths about genetic engineering concerns a GM tomato which, as legend would have it, contained flounder genes spliced into tomato DNA.  While it's true that Calgene experimented with a freeze-resistant tomato, they used a "synthesized ... antifreeze gene based on the winter flounder gene" -- not a cut-and-pasted copy of the gene itself.
    Those freeze-resistant tomatoes never made it to market, but a different version called the Flavr Savr did.  Tomatoes contain a protein called polygalacturonase (PG), which breaks down the pectin in the cell walls, causing the tomato to soften as it ripens.  To create a tomato that would ripen more slowly, Calgene took the gene that encodes for the PG protein and reversed it.  This backwards strand of DNA, known as an "antisense" gene, binds to the forward-running strand and cancels it out.  Without PG, the pectin (and therefore the tomato) breaks down more slowly.  The simplicity of the process is remarkable.  No toxic chemicals, no mysterious bits of DNA.  Just a simple tweak of the tomato's own genetic code.
    But hold on a minute.  What if they had used a gene from a fish in creating this tomato?  Would the tomato taste fishy?  Would you have to watch out for fish bones in your pasta sauce?  Not unless you've added anchovies.
    Genes are basically bits of computer code that are interchangeable from species to species.  When you isolate a tiny bit of gene, it doesn't retain the essence of whichever species it came from.  You might have a bit of DNA that says simply, "Grow appendage X on the abdomen," but doesn't specify what kind of appendage.  If you put that code into a fly, it activates the part of DNA that grows a wing.  Put that same code into a mouse and it grows a foreleg.  It doesn't make the mouse any more like a fly.
3. GMO's are radioactive, cause cancer, and are bad for the environment.
    This is a trickier question to answer, and I'll be the first to admit that we need more research into the health effects of GM products.  But I'm going to bet that the answer turns out to be something like this: some GMOs are safe, and others are not.  Lumping all GMOs into the same category is like lumping all fertilizers or all pesticides into the same category.  Genetic changes are only as dangerous as the proteins they encode for -- just as in any plant.  Consider how many "natural" plants have genes that produce poisons and toxins. 
    In the case of the Flavr Savr tomato, I wouldn't be too worried.  It simply blocks a protein that the tomato itself produces.  In the case of herbicide-resistant soybeans, I'd want to know more.  What kind of herbicide is being sprayed on the plants?  Are traces of the herbicide still found in the food when it reaches our plate?
    While I voted for the labeling act that was on the California ballot last year, a simple "contains GMOs" label would be of little use to me.  I want to know what specifically about the organism was modified so I can reach my own conclusions.
I agree with the author of this post. GMO's are not inherently bad -- especially in a world where the population is growing fast. Modifications that make foods more nutritious and more productive are needed. My only concern is that some of these foods may be rushed to the market too fast -- before they have been proven to be safe. We need to find some middle ground -- that will allow modifications that increase yield and nutrition, while insuring safety. 
The government should take a leading role in this effort, but this cannot be done until we get control of the government back. Corporations currently have too much control over our government, and because of that they will automatically come down on the side of corporations. This is just one more area where corporate control of government is not in the best interest of the citizens. The issue of GMO's is not unsolvable, but it cannot be solved until we wrest back control of our government from the corporations.

When ?

Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in the Sacramento Bee.

U.S. Lags Behind In Internet Speed

(The laptop computers shown above are MacBook Air's -- the computer I use. And the image is from the website.)

Americans like to think that they live in the best country in the world -- and that everything in this country is better than anywhere else. Of course, that is not true. Now we learn that even though the U.S. is one of the most computer-oriented countries, it lags behind several others in average internet speed -- an issue that is very important in this modern world.

In fact, the United States is no better than 9th in average internet speed. South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Latvia, the Czech Republic, and Sweden all have higher average internet speeds. The U.S. was 8th last year, but has since been passed by Sweden.

Is this acceptable in our computer-oriented society? Would it be acceptable to slide even further down the list? Why is this happening? Aren't our communications company just as capable of providing high speed service as those in other countries?

The problem is pricing. The American companies have priced high internet speed out of the reach of many Americans (especially those with low-wage jobs or who are unemployed). Just compare some U.S. prices to those in other countries. Comcast will provide 305 Mbps (megabits per second), but they want $320 a month to do so. Verizon will provide 500 Mbps, but want consumers to pay $301 a month to get it.

Prices are much lower elsewhere. In Hong Kong, a consumer can get 500 Mbps service for only $25 a month -- and in Japan, a 2 Gbps service costs only $51 a month.

I'm sure some of you are thinking that's just the price we pay for having a free enterprise (capitalist) system. That idea doesn't ring true. Don't Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Switzerland, and the Netherlands also have free enterprise systems? Why aren't their prices also outrageously high?

The truth is that our government has made a decision -- that allowing communications companies to make outrageous profits is more important than assuring all Americans have the best internet connections and speed. Other countries have decided differently. I think our government made the wrong decision. What do you think?

Twitter Racists

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at

In America

It seems to me that we have our priorities skewed in the United States. Allowing a same-sex couple to marry will not hurt any other person in any way. But millions want to prevent it, because it offends their religious sensibilities (which they would like to force on their fellow citizens). But allowing anyone to have an assault rifle (or any kind of gun) does affect other people -- because some people (the dangerously mentally ill, criminals, political nuts, etc.) will take their gun and kill others.

Unfortunately, our congressional officials (especially the Republicans) think it is more important to protect the ability of people to kill others than to protect the rights of someone in the LBGT community to marry the person they love. That's just not rational thinking.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

The ONLY Way To Stop Abortions

Found at the blog called What Would Jack Do?.

Republicans Are The "Death Panel"

Yes, he said it -- and even worse, he meant it. He and his Republican cohorts in the House have now voted 38 times to repeal the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). And since the Senate and White House won't even look at those 38 ridiculous bills, they are now devising another strategy. They are going to threaten to shut down the government when the debt ceiling will need to be raised next October -- unless President Obama and the Democrats agree to completely defund Obamacare (which would kill it, since it couldn't be implemented).

They had the best government insurance available for themselves, and their rich buddies on Wall Street have too much money to have to worry about health insurance -- and those are the only people they care about. They don't care about people with pre-esisting conditions being able to get health insurance. They don't care about the millions between 21 and 26 who now have health insurance because Obamacare lets them stay on their parents' insurance plan. They don't care about the working-class and middle-class who will get help from the government to purchase insurance.

They don't care about all the women who now get free contraceptives from their insurance provider. They don't care about the millions of poor who will finally have insurance coverage through the expansion of Medicaid. They don't care about the sick people who can no longer be dropped by their insurance company because their illness is expensive. They don't care about the millions of Americans who will see their insurance premiums get cut next year because of Obamacare (in New York those cuts will be as much as 50%).

And it doesn't stop there. Ryan and his GOP buddies have repeatedly proposed plans to abolish Medicare, leaving seniors at the mercy of the giant insurance companies (who will cherry-pick the healthiest, and leave the rest with policies that are too expensive for them to buy -- even with the little government help the GOP would allow). In short, the Republicans don't care about the elderly either.

When Obamacare was being proposed and debated, the Republicans kept repeating an outrageous lie -- that Obamacare would create "death panels" to decide who should get medical care and who should just be allowed to die. Now we know the truth. There really is a "death panel" -- and it is the uncaring and mean-spirited Republicans in Congress. Because they are happily willing to let American citizens die from a lack of health care insurance -- just because they don't like President Obama.

This is just another reason (among many) to vote against the Republican Party in 2014.

NY-Style Hot Dog

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

Poll Shows GOP In No-Win Situation

It has been pretty obvious from numerous recent polls that the American people are disgusted with Congress. They see the gridlock that is in that body, preventing any real work to be done to cure the economy or create jobs -- and want the two parties to compromise and get something done.

The charts above were made from a YouGov Poll done on July 17th and 18th of 1,000 nationwide adults. A margin of error was not given, but YouGov was one of the most accurate polls in predicting the 2012 election. And this poll, by questioning members of each party on whether they want their party reps. to compromise or not, shows the congressional GOP has worked its way between a rock and a hard place -- and has no room to turn.

The public, which is disgusted with the failure to compromise, is placing most of the blame for the current gridlock on the Republicans. About 81% of the public thinks the Republicans are either partially or wholly to blame -- and 41% thinks they are wholly to blame for the gridlock. Meanwhile, about 59% of the public thinks Democrats are wholly or partially to blame -- and only 19% think they are wholly to blame for the gridlock. This makes me think it is far more likely that the Republicans will suffer at the polls in November 2014 than the Democrats.

But if the Republicans change and start to compromise to please the general public, they might not even make it past their own party's primary. That's because, while the percentage of Republicans wanting compromise has increased in the last two years (from 34% to 44%), a clear majority still do not want their reps. to compromise (56%). This puts the Republicans in a quandary. Do they play to their base and possibly suffer in the general election, or do they give the public what it wants and possibly lose in their primary. Neither choice is a good one.

The Democrats don't have that problem. About 78% of their base is perfectly willing to see their reps. compromise -- as long as its a real compromise, and not just giving in to the GOP completely. Compromising would not hurt any Democrat in their party primary or the general election.

Frankly, I don't feel sorry for the Republicans. They created this mess themselves when they courted the racists, fundamentalists, and teabaggers. Now they are just reaping what they have sown.

Crumbling Infrastructure

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at

Portrait Of A Very Red Congressional District

The image above is of my own congressional district -- the 13th Congressional District of Texas. The Cook Partisan Voting Index lists this district as one of the two most Republican-leaning districts in the United States (tied with Alabama's 6th Congressional District at a +29). The district has been represented by a Republican for the last 18 years -- Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Clarendon). The GOP has such a strong grip on this district that the Democrats didn't even field a candidate in 2012.

It is a very large district, with only two cities of any substantial size -- Wichita Falls (2010  population 104,553) and Amarillo ( 2010 population 190,695). It covers 41 Texas counties and 40,000 square miles -- and is more than 350 miles in length. Here are a few other facts about the 13th District:


Male...............354.390 (50.7%)
Female...............344,222 (49.3%)

19 & under...............201,344 (28.8%)
20 to 34...............140,327 (20.1%)
35 to 54...............179,938 (25.8%)
55 to 64...............82,094 (11.8%)
65 & over...............94,969 (13.6%)

Median age...............35.8

Whites...............424,728 (60.8%)
Hispanic...............177,215 (25.4%)
Blacks...............38,535 (5.7%)
Native American...............5,459 (0.8%)
Asian...............11,982 (1.7%)
Other/Mixed...............40,693 (5.8%)

Born in Texas...............475,620 (68.1%)
Born in another state...............160,496 (23.0%)
Born in U.S. territory...............6,487 (0.9%)
Born in another country...............56,009 (8.0%)

Civilian labor force...............329,906
Unemployed...............20,933 (6.4%)

Housing units...............299,861
Occupied...............252,387 (84.2%)
Vacant...............47,474 (15.8%)

Median household income...............$45,739
Mean (average) household income...............$59,705
Under $10k...............16,086 (6.4%)
$10k to $25k...............50,924 (20.2%)
$25k to $50k...............69,943 (27.7%)
$50k to $100k...............75,834 (30.1%)
Over $100k...............39,600 (15.7%)

No health insurance...............134,606
(20.2% of non-institutionalized population)

11.3% of all families live in poverty
18.3% of families w/children under 18 live in poverty
20.9% of families w/children under 5 live in poverty
31.7% of households headed by single female in poverty
41.4% of households headed by single female (w/kids under 18) in poverty
36.3% of households headed by single female (w/kids under 5) in poverty
15.1% of all people live in poverty
21.8% of all children under 18 live in poverty
12.7% of 18 to 64 year olds live in poverty
9.6% of those 65 and older live in poverty

82.8% of those over 25 have a high school degree or GED
19.6% of those over 25 have a 4-year college degree

If you would like to see a profile of your own congressional district, go to

No Virtuoso

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

Majority Of Public Still Favors Choice

Republicans state legislatures have been trying to bypass the Constitution and limit (or eliminate abortion) by closing clinics and making it much harder for a woman to choose to exercise control over her own body. But they are not supported by a majority of the American public. In fact, 2 out of 3 Americans think this is a federal constitutional issue, and not an issue that should be dealt with by individual states.

These charts were made from data in the latest Washington Post/ABC News Poll. The poll was done between July 18th and 21st of 1,002 nationwide adults -- and has a margin of error of 3.5 points.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Isolated Incident ?

Big Majority Favors Raising Minimum Wage

It is no secret that American workers are having a hard time these days -- and none have it any harder than those millions who work for minimum wage. For a worker to have the same buying power that someone making minimum wage in the late 1960's had, they would need to be making a little over $10.00 an hour. Since the current minimum wage is only $7.25 an hour (or about $15,000 a year), that means today's minimum wage workers have significantly less buying power than those in the 1960's.

This is not an insignificant loss of buying power. A minimum wage worker can only buy about 70% of what those previous minimum wage workers could buy -- and with the cost of nearly everything going up, that spells trouble for many workers. In fact, one recent survey showed that just renting a two-bedroom apartment in any state would exceed the income of a minimum wage worker. This means many families must have both parents working just to make ends meet -- an option not open to single-parent minimum wage workers (who are below the poverty line even though working full-time).

There is an easy fix to this deplorable situation -- raise the minimum wage to a decent level (about $10.10 an hour). This would lift many out of poverty (thus reducing or eliminating the need for government assistance). It would also put an upward pressure on the wages of those making above the minimum wage (ending worker wage stagnation and a falling median wage in the U.S.). It would not solve all the problems of our economy, but it would create new demand for goods/services (which would help businesses of all sizes) and help get the economy moving in the right direction.

And as poll after poll has shown, the American people know this -- and they are in favor of raising the minimum wage. Now a new poll has been done by Hart Research Associates (conducted between July 15th and 17th of 1,010 nationwide adults -- with a margin of error of 3.1 points), and it shows that an overwhelming majority of Americans (80%) are in favor of raising the minimum wage to $10.10 an hour.

And that majority exists among all races, sexes, income levels, education levels, political persuasions, and parts of this country. It even includes 62% of Republicans (well above the margin of error). So, why are the Republicans in the House and Senate blocking any minimum wage raise (when a majority of their own constituents favor raising it)?

The answer is that congressional Republicans don't represent working Americans -- not even the workers in their own party. They represent the rich, the giant corporations, and the financial hooligans on Wall Street. They represent those willing to abuse workers to squeeze out another penny to add to their already record-breaking profits.

It is just one more reason (among many others) to vote the Republicans out of power in the 2014 election.

Not Solid Ground

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