Saturday, May 31, 2014

Start With The Corporations

Teabaggers Won In Texas (But It Was Years Ago)

(This cartoon image is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.)

The runoff primary in Texas was concluded last Tuesday (the 27th), and the major media is reporting it as a triumph for the teabaggers. A prime example of how it is being reported is the headline from Reuters, which reads:

"Tea Party cruises to wins in Texas Republican primary runoffs"

Now I'm not saying the headline is untrue (because they certainly did win in Texas, from the top to the bottom of the ticket), but I do think it is misleading. Take for example the race for lt. governor between David Dewhurst (the incumbent) and State Senator Dan Patrick (who won the race). The media is reporting that the "teabagger" candidate beat the "establishment" candidate, making it sound like it was a race between a moderate and an extreme right-winger. But that is just not the truth.

The truth is that "establishment" candidate (Dewhurst) was just as big a teabagger as Patrick, and he has been a teabagger for years now. This election was just the incumbent teabagger against another teabagger who wanted his job. I defy anyone knowledgeable person to show me how Dewhurst is different from Patrick -- how he would have supported different programs or voted differently on the issues. And it was the same all up and down the ballot -- teabaggers were running against teabaggers.

They all tried to position themselves as the real teabagger and their opponent as the establishment moderate, but that was just talk to try and win over the voters in the primary. The fact is they were all teabaggers, and would support the teabagger policies once elected.

Did the teabaggers win the Texas GOP primary? Yes, they did. They won it because they had no non-teabagger opposition. The teabaggers seized control of the Texas Republican Party several years ago, and now no politician at any level can win the GOP primary in Texas without being a teabagger and supporting teabagger policies. That's why every statewide elected Republican official (and those who are running for election this November) is a teabagger. Not because the teabaggers defeated some non-existent moderates in the primary -- but because they have no moderate opposition in the Texas Republican Party.


Political Cartoon is by Jimmy Margulies at

Public Knows Income Inequality Hurts The U.S. Economy

The Republicans still cling to their failed "trickle-down" economic policy -- even though it has resulted in a huge wealth and income gap in the United States (since nothing actually trickled down from the rich, but just went into their bank accounts). That gap has now grown wider than at any time since before the Great Depression -- and has already spurred a terrible recession (and unless changed might bring on another one that's even worse).

But while the Republicans see nothing wrong with that huge income gap, and in fact, want to continue the policy that created it and is making it worse with each passing month -- the American people have come to their senses. They know now that the Republican economic policy has helped no one but the rich -- and they know the huge income inequality gap is a problem for the economy.

The chart above illustrates that. It is from a Tarrance Group / Lake Research Partners Poll done between March 16th and 20th of 1,000 nationwide registered & likely voters, with a margin of error of 3.1 points. It shows that 79% of the population considers the income gap to be a problem -- and about half (49%) think it is a big problem.

And that's not all. That same survey shows that a huge majority of Americans (64%) think the economic rules in this country favor the rich over everyone else. And a clear majority thinks it is the government's place to do something to reduce that huge gap between the rich and the rest of America, and fix the economy so that all Americans will have the opportunity to better themselves instead of everything going to the rich.

Two More Years

Political Cartoon is by R.J. Matson at

Rove's Attack On Hillary's Health Was A Political Blunder

Karl Rove was once hailed as a brilliant political strategist by his fellow Republicans. That was because he successfully engineered the election of George Bush in 2000 (by getting a majority of electoral college votes in spite of the fact that Bush lost the popular vote). But since Bush left office, Rove political expertise has come into question.

In the 2012 election, the super-PAC headed by Rove spent multiple millions of donor dollars to defeat President Obama. It failed miserably, and Rove looked like a whiner when he objected on nationwide TV to the networks calling Ohio for President Obama (even though they were later proved to be right). Now it looks like Rove may have made an even bigger political blunder.

A couple of weeks ago, Rove questioned the health of Hillary Clinton -- referring back to a fall she had in 2012, and insinuating that she may have suffered "traumatic brain injury". And considering her age, he thought this would be an issue in the 2016 presidential election if Hillary chose to run. Rove was trying to chip away at the popularity of Hillary Clinton to give the GOP nominee in 2016 a chance to be elected -- but it looks like his nefarious accusation has backfired on him. He may have helped Hillary instead of hurting her.

It turns out that two-thirds of the public disapproved of Rove's scurrilous attack on Hillary. That's what a new Washington Post / ABC News Poll found. The survey was done between May 21st and 25th of a random national sample of 1,017 adults (and has a margin of error of 3.5 points).

The chart above shows the result of that poll. Note that 66% of the general public (and 67% of registered voters) disapproved of Rove's remarks. And that feeling was much the same across all demographic groups -- regardless of age, education, income, race, gender, or region. Even a plurality of Republicans disapproved (with 46% disapproving and 45% approving).

Are Karl Rove's 15 minutes of fame as a political strategist over? Could be. He certainly can't afford to make another blunder of this magnitude.

Off To The Races

Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at

Terrorism In The U.S.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Legalization Is A Success

Homosexuality's Cause Is A Silly Argument & Doesn't Matter

The chart above was made from information contained in surveys the Gallup Poll has been taking since 1978 -- and it shows the public's opinion about the cause of homosexuality. The latest of these survey's was done between May 8th and 11th of a random national sample of 1,028 adults, and has a 4 point margin of error.

The argument is about whether homosexuality is a trait a person is born with, or whether it is a trait developed because of upbringing & environment -- or is simply a choice made by the gay/lesbian individual. The "choice" argument has pretty much been discredited, since it simply makes no sense that anyone would choose to make their life much harder. Only the most extreme bigots are stupid enough to believe homosexuality is just a choice these days.

That leaves the argument that the LGBT community are either born with their gender preferences, or they learn them in their formative years growing up. Back in 1978, the "upbringing & environment" argument was held by a majority of Americans (56%), while only a tiny minority (13%) believed the "born that way" argument. That opinion has changed radically in the last couple of decades -- now the "born that way" argument is held by a plurality of Americans (42%), while only about 37% still cling to the "upbringing and environment" argument (a drop of about 19 points).

I have long believed in the "born that way" view. That was because I thought that minds could be changed if people understood that. However, I now believe that the argument is a distraction from what we should be considering most important -- the implementation of the equal rights guarantee of the United States Constitution.

The truth is that the cause of why someone has a different gender preference is really none of my business, and it isn't any of your business either. It is just a fact that some people prefer to date & mate with a person of the opposite sex, while others prefer a person of the same sex. Neither preference is an adequate, or even partially justifiable, reason to deny any person their equal rights under the laws and Constitution (which those laws must be based on) of this nation.

Bigotry is not now, and never has been, based on reason and fact. Bigotry exists because there are weak and stupid people who must feel they are superior to some other group of people. This has been the basis for racism and misogyny, and still is to some extent, but these bigoted beliefs are becoming socially unacceptable in our society. Hatred of homosexuals though, is still somewhat accepted in this society -- especially when it comes wrapped in the cloak of religion.

If science conclusively proved that homosexuals were born with their gender preference, it would make no difference to the bigots in this country. They didn't base their bigoted beliefs on facts, and facts will not change their minds. They just have a need to feel superior to others. That's why I feel this whole argument is rather silly, and doesn't matter. It won't change the bigots.

And it also won't change the equal protection clause of the Constitution. The Constitution guarantees all Americans the right to equal protection under the law, including those in the LGBT community -- regardless of whether they were born that way, or became that way through upbringing & environment. The argument is irrelevant.

I do not care about the sexual preference of my family, friends, neighbors, or fellow citizens -- or why they have that sexual preference. I do however care about the United States Constitution, and I firmly believe that the rights guaranteed by that document should apply equally to ALL citizens -- and so should you.


Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Public Believes Wealthy Have Too Much Influence

Recent Supreme Court decisions have resulted in a flood of money flowing into our electoral system -- with some of the richest Americans giving millions to make sure politicians are elected that will vote for policies that will make the rich even richer (and spend millions on lobbyists to influence Congress after the elections are over). Most of this money is spent to elect Republicans, who still champion "trickle-down" economics -- the idea that if we just give enough to the rich, they will someday share some of it with the rest of America.

The upshot of all this (the Supreme Court decisions and the Republican policies) is that the richest Americans and the giant corporations have been given a big voice in government, while the huge majority of Americans are left out of the government decision-making process (and increasingly out of the electoral process).

The wealthy, and their Republican lackeys, would like for Americans to believe this is good for the country. But the public is not buying that. About 3 out of every 4 Americans think the wealthy have too much influence in government, and they don't like it.

That's what a newly-released Rasmussen Poll found, in a survey done on May 21st and 22nd of 1,000 nationwide likely voters (with a margin of error of 3 points).


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

Conservatism Is Declining In The United States

The Gallup Poll surveys Americans at least yearly on whether they are conservative or liberal. The most recent of these surveys was done between May 8th and 11th of a nationwide sample of 1,028 adults (with a margin of error of 4 points). It has been normal in the past few decades for more Americans to claim to be conservative, and while that is true, the gap between those claiming to be conservatives and those saying they are liberals is declining.

Especially in recent years, there are two kinds of conservatives & liberals -- those who claim those labels on social issues and those who claim them on economic issues. As the top chart shows, the gap between conservatives and liberals on social issues has closed dramatically in just the last 15 years -- from 18 points in 1999 to only 4 points in 2014. Issues like same-sex marriage and the legalization of marijuana reflect this huge change in public opinion.

The change on economic issues, at least as reflected by the poll, has not been that dramatic -- moving only from a 28 point gap in 1999 to a 21 point gap in 2014. While I appreciate that this is a move in the right direction, I have some doubt as to whether it reflects the reality of where Americans stand on economic policy.

For instance, substantial majorities of Americans oppose cutting Social Security benefits, oppose eliminating Medicare, support the expansion of Medicaid, oppose more tax cuts for the rich and the corporations, support increasing taxes on the rich, support removing subsidies & loopholes that allow corporations to avoid pay taxes, oppose cutting the SNAP Program (food stamps), and oppose cuts to education and the EPA. Those are all liberal ideas, and no true (economic) conservative would hold those views.

That tells me that while Americans claim to be conservative, they actually support the economic policies of the liberals. How can this be? The Republicans have spent the past few decades trying to brand liberals as "tax and spend" politicians and conservatives as "fiscally-responsible" politicians, and they have been pretty successful in that effort -- in spite of the fact that there is no truth in the assertion. The Republicans actually spend more than the Democrats do. They just don't spend it to help the bulk of the American people. They prefer to put more money into the military-industrial complex and to spend money to provide advantages for the rich and the corporations.

There have only been two presidents in recent memory that actually reduced the budget deficit -- Bill Clinton (who eliminated it) and Barack Obama (who substantially lowered it). Every single Republican, including conservative icon Ronald Reagan, increased the budget deficit (and the national debt).

Americans have been deluded into believing that conservatives are fiscally responsible, and since they want to be viewed that way, they claim to be conservatives. But while they may still accept that lie, they no longer want the failed fiscal policies of the GOP -- and actually prefer the policies put forward by liberals. Hopefully, the public will soon realize that "liberal" is not a dirty word, but a path to both social and economic sanity.


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Party Of Death

Thursday, May 29, 2014

The GOP War On The Poor

A Legend Is Gone

America (and the world) has lost a great poet and a wonderful human being. Maya Angelou has died at the age of 86 at her home in North Carolina. I simply don't have the words to express my affection and respect for this legend -- so I will let her own words speak for her.

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise. 


Political Cartoon is by Milt Priggee at

Unions And The Middle Class Are Inextricably Linked

Republicans will try to tell you that unions are evil -- that they are anti-capitalist and anti-democratic. That is hogwash. Unions are the only way any worker can be protected from the greed and unfairness of employers, especially corporations. Labor is the only thing most people have to sell, and unions make sure they are fairly rewarded for that labor. They also make sure workers have a safe work environment, and are treated fairly by those who supervise them.

But there is another value of unions -- a value to the society  and economy at large. As the charts above illustrate, unions created a vibrant and growing middle class in this country -- and in doing so reduced the inequality inherent in a capitalist system.

Unfortunately, the Republicans have demonized and done everything they can to destroy the union movement in the United States -- and they have been pretty successful in that effort. And because of that, worker wages are falling, the middle class is shrinking, and the vast inequality gap between the rich and the rest of America is larger than ever before (and continues to grow).

This can be reversed, but only by strengthening the union movement. But it won't happen as long as the Republicans retain the power to veto anything but what is good for their corporate and Wall Street masters. They must be voted out of power, so we can return to a sane and fair economic policy.

There is some hope that could happen in November. There is a strong anti-incumbent mood in the country -- a mood that could flip control of the House of Representatives (where the GOP has a strong majority.

And for the third week in a row, the Rasmussen Poll (done May 19th through 25th of 3,500 likely voters, with a 2 point margin of error) shows the Democrats have a lead in the generic congressional ballot (see chart below). We can vote the Republicans out of power, and return this nation to a better and smarter economic policy -- but only if we work hard and get a large turnout to the polls in November.


Political Cartoon is by John Branch in the San Antonio Express-News.

Democrat Leads In Michigan Race For U.S. Senate

Republicans were hoping to pick up a senate seat in Michigan, where Democrat Carl Levin is retiring -- and in the initial polls the Republican candidate (Terri Lynn Land) was doing fairly well. But the latest poll -- the Free Press / WXYZ-TV / EPIC-MRA Poll -- shows the Democrat (Gary Peters) has now gone out to a 6 point lead (44% to 38%). That's good news for Democrats, but a long way from reason to celebrate yet, since there are still 18% of the voters that are undecided. The poll was taken between May 17th and 20th of 600 likely Michigan voters. It is the women voters giving Peters the lead, where he has a 14 point margin.


Political Cartoon is by Ingrid Rice at

West Texas A&M - NCAA Division II Softball Champions

The only major university in the Texas Panhandle is West Texas A&M (located in Canyon, just 10 miles south of Amarillo). It is also the school where my youngest daughter attends (as a senior with a 4.0 average). So I think you'll understand if I depart from discussing politics long enough to congratulate the Lady Buffalo softball team for winning the NCAA Division II National Softball Championship. They beat Valdosta State 3-2 on a three-run home run in the top of the seventh inning.

It is the first national softball championship for the West Texas A&M women. Needless to say, all of us Panhandle-dwellers are very proud of their accomplishment. Congratulations!!

(The picture above, from the website, is of the winning home run.)

The Maze

Political Cartoon is by Tim Eagan at

Teabagger Selfishness

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shredding The Social Contract

Wall Street Has Recovered - But Main Street Has Not

The charts above (from Mother Jones) paints a pretty good picture of what has happened, both in the United States and in some other developed economies. The recession that hit at the end of 2007 and all of 2008 hurt everyone from Wall Street to Main Street (and in other developed nations). But in 2009, the economy began to recover, both in the U.S. and abroad -- and Wall Street and the giant corporations recovered all of their losses, and once again began to post record-breaking profits.

And in most developed nations employment also began to recover -- in all but the United States. In the U.S., millions remain unemployed and corporate America (in spite of their record profits) still refused to hire many new workers -- but instead used the high unemployment to hurt unions, keep the median (and minimum) wages low, and shrink the middle class. And they continued another vicious trend, started in the Bush administration with tax breaks that rewarded the exporting of American jobs. They continued to send American jobs to other countries (where they could abuse workers with impunity).

Most Americans don't need these charts to tell them that though, because they are still feeling the effects of the Bush recession (even if Wall Street and the corporations are not). They can see the huge unemployment that remains, and they can feel the falling wages and rising inflation. And they can see Wall Street and the corporations getting richer each day (while sharing none of the rising productivity with their loyal workers).

That's why I wasn't surprised at this newly released Gallup Poll (taken between April 30th and May 1st of 1,005 nationwide adults). The poll (see chart below) shows that while two-thirds of Americans think the corporations are very good at creating jobs in foreign countries, they are not so good at doing the same in this country. A clear majority (54%) say the big U.S. corporations do a very poor job of balancing the interests of citizens with corporate interests, do not help grow the U.S. economy, and are also doing very poorly at creating jobs in this country.

Much of this is because the congressional GOP has blocked any attempt to remove tax breaks for exporting jobs or forced those corporations to pay their share in taxes (or for many, any taxes at all). They have also blocked all attempts at job creation or a raising of wages (especially the minimum wage). And there is no reason to believe the Republicans will allow a more fair and sane economic policy to be instituted (because they are getting too much Wall Street and corporate money to allow that).

This is one more example of how the policies of the Republican Party are out-of-step with the desires of the American people. They have opted to represent the rich instead of ordinary Americans -- and they need to pay for that in November.


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

Texas Dems Not Interested In Winning Ag. Comm. Race

Kinky Friedman...............80,890 (46.21%)
Jim Hogan...............94,124 (53.78%)

The man pictured at the left is Jim Hogan -- the choice of Texas Democrats as their nominee in the November election race for Agriculture Commissioner. Who is Jim Hogan? That's hard to know, because he hasn't campaigned and hasn't told anyone what his issues are. As near as I can tell, he's a right-wing fundamentalist. He admitted that the only reason he ran as a Democrat is because there were already five candidates in the GOP race for Ag Commissioner (and he didn't think he could beat five other Republicans).

Why did Texas Democrats vote for a right-wing fundamentalist, who didn't campaign and says he will not campaign in the general election either (not for himself or the Democratic ticket)? All I can figure is that a lot of Democratic Party regulars think it's more important to settle an old grudge they hold than to have a chance of winning this race in November.

Less than 1.5% of Texas' registered voters bothered to vote in the Democratic primary runoff. That's not unusual, and means that hardly anyone other than party regulars voted. And too many of them still harbor a grudge against Kinky Friedman for running as an Independent in the 2006 governor's race. They blame Kinky for their pitiful showing in that race -- ignoring the facts that Kinky drew as many Republican votes in that race as Democratic votes, and the Democratic candidate was an "empty suit" who couldn't have beaten Rick Perry if it had been a two-person race. And to satisfy that old grudge, they put a right-wing fundamentalist (who's not even a real Democrat) on the November ballot.

Kinky is a maverick, and he doesn't follow the party line. But he is a campaigner, and he was willing to campaign hard for not only himself, but the entire Democratic ticket (and he could have garnered many Independent votes for the ticket). But that wasn't good enough for the party regulars. They preferred a right-wing fundamentalist Republican in ill-fitting Democratic clothes -- a person not willing to campaign for the Democratic Party.

Frankly, I'm disgusted. I won't be able to support Hogan or vote for him in November, because I'm a progressive, and I never vote for right-wing fundamentalists -- even if they pose as Democrats. And by tossing in the towel in the Ag Commissioner race, I'm left to wonder just how serious Democrats are about winning any statewide race this year.

As I said in a post a couple of days ago, it looks like the state party (and its major candidates) are following the same old path to defeat as in the past -- by posing as slightly less right-wing candidates than the Republicans they are running against. They seem to think Texas voters will flock to the polls to vote for the lesser of two evils. But that hasn't worked in the past, and it's a sure road to defeat this year too.

I get daily e-mails from Wendy Davis, Leticia Van de Putte, and David Alameel. But they never tell me what progressive values they are willing to fight for. They just ask for money and assure me they are better somehow than their opponent. That's not good enough. I want to see some Democrats willing to fight for progressive values, and offer a real choice to the right-wingers of the GOP. And I think that's what many others want.

I'm going to vote a progressive ballot in November and I was hoping it would include many Democrats. Unfortunately, the Democrats with progressive roots seem to be running away from those roots. And frankly, that doesn't bode well for November.

Senseless Shootings

Political Cartoon is by Manny Francisco in The Manila Times.

Carter Has 7 Point Lead In Georgia Governor's Race

The Georgia primary is over (except for a runoff between the GOP senate candidates), and we now know who will be the party candidates in the Fall. Last week, I posted about a poll showing Democrat Michelle Nunn with a small lead over both Republican runoff hopefuls in the senate race. Now the Rasmussen Poll has released a survey on the governor's race between Republican incumbent Nathan Deal and his Democratic opponent Jason Carter.

The survey was done on May 21st and 22nd of 750 likely Georgia voters, and has a margin of error of 4 points -- and it should give Georgia Democrats a good shot in the arm as the general election campaign gets started. That's because the poll shows Jason Carter (grandson of former President Jimmy Carter) has a 7 point lead over the incumbent Republican (48% to 41%).

Polls have shown for a couple of months now that this is a close race, and this latest survey shows the Democrat is not fading in the race. There's still a few months before election day in November and anything can happen, but the poll does show that Georgia may not be as red as some people think. The Democratic candidates for both the governor and senate races have a real chance to win this year.

A Deadly Combination

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Minimum Wage

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

A Bit Of Common Sense

U.S. Government Protects Corporations, But Not Workers

The United States is the richest nation in the world. But it is also one of the most backward, when it comes to protecting the rights of workers. This is clearly shown in the image above (from the website of Mother Jones).

The U.S. government is quick to protect Wall Street and the giant corporations. And beginning about 1980, when the Republicans took control, the government systematically began to dismantle the power of worker unions, eliminated regulations requiring Wall Street and the corporations to treat both consumers and workers fairly, and reduced taxes for the corporations (and the rich). This led to a stagnant (and now falling) national median wage, a minimum wage with 1/3 less than in the late 1960's, corporate refusal to share any of the rising production with workers, a shrinking middle class, and the widest gap between the wealthy and the rest of America since the 1920's.

All of that is bad enough -- and must be fixed to get the economy moving again. But there is an even more fundamental problem with how the government treats American workers. It doesn't guarantee them any fundamental rights to fair treatment like other nations do (both developed and third world nations). Note that the United States is one of only 16 nations in the world that doesn't mandate that workers must have time off each week. It is one of only 9 nations that doesn't mandate workers get some paid vacation each year, and it is one of only 6 nations that doesn't mandate some paid maternity leave.

And it doesn't stop there. A fourth chart could have been included, because the United States is one of only a small handful of nations that doesn't mandate any paid sick leave at all for workers. That means that low-wage workers, the workers who are already being paid poverty wages by their employer, must go to work no matter how sick they are (or they will have their pay cut).

I would love to blame only the Republicans for this, but the truth is that there have been times where both parties enjoyed control of both the White House and Congress -- and neither has bothered to institute these basic worker rights. They haven't done it because the corporations and other business interests oppose mandatory time off, paid vacations, paid maternity leave, and paid sick time. Even though some of them give these as "benefits" (instead of rights), they whine that employers can't afford to be mandated to provide these rights to every worker.

That is a ridiculous load of horse manure. The business community in almost every other nation in the world has no problem meeting these mandates. Why couldn't the American businesses do the same? They could. They just don't want to be mandated to do so. They want to maintain the right to abuse their workers.

This is pretty good evidence that the American democracy is disappearing, and it is being replaced by a corporatocracy -- a country where corporations have more rights than the citizens do. I don't think this was what the Founding Fathers of this country intended. They created this country and wrote the Constitution to give rights to citizens -- human beings, not corporations. It is time to fix this. Other countries maintain a prosperous business community while protecting the rights of workers and other citizens. There is no reason why the United States cannot do the same.

The Future

Political Cartoon is by Olle Johansson in the Swedish daily newspaper Norra Vasterbotten.

Merkley Leads Oregon Senate Race By Double-Digits

The Oregon primary is over and we now know who the candidates are for the general election in their U.S. Senate race. The Democrats have re-nominated incumbent Jeff Merkley, while the Republicans have nominated Monica Wehby. In the first poll taken after the primary, Merkley holds a 10 point lead over Wehby (47% to 37%).

This is good to see. Merkley has been a constant progressive voice and vote in the Senate for the past few years -- especially in fighting against the GOP's abuse of the filibuster rules. And if the Democrats are to hold their senate majority, they must hold this senate seat.

This information is from the Rasmussen Poll -- taken on May 21st and 22nd of 750 likely voters in Oregon, and has a margin of error of 4 points.


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

Green Party: U.S. Violates Asimov's "3 Laws Of Robotics"

It was the legendary science fiction writer Isaac Asimov who predicted that robots would someday take over the difficult and dangerous jobs, freeing humans to pursue a better path. Asimov knew though that robots had an equal chance of doing good and bad for the human race, so he developed his "3 laws of robotics" to protect humans.

But even before the age of robotics has fully dawned, the U.S. government has tossed out all three of Asimov's 3 laws. For the government, robots are just machines designed to kill human beings -- even innocent humans (women, children, and the elderly). The Green Party thinks this is a travesty, and Green Party Shadow Cabinet member David Swanson (pictured) puts it this way:

The three laws of robotics, according to science fiction author Isaac Asimov, are:
1. A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
I would gladly have accepted a $20 million Pentagon contract for the job of pointing out these three laws.
OK, maybe $25 million.
Sadly, the Pentagon has instead hired a bunch of philosophy professors from leading U.S. universities to tell them how to make robots murder people morally and ethically.
Of course, this conflicts with the first law above. A robot designed to kill human beings is designed to violate the first law.
The whole project even more fundamentally violates the second law. The Pentagon is designing robots to obey orders precisely when they violate the first law, and to always obey orders without any exception. That's the advantage of using a robot. The advantage is not in risking the well-being of a robot instead of a soldier. The Pentagon doesn't care about that, except in certain situations in which too many deaths of its own humans create political difficulties. And there are just as many situations in which there are political advantages for the Pentagon in losing its own human lives: "The sacrifice of American lives is a crucial step in the ritual of commitment," wrote William P. Bundy of the CIA, an advisor to Presidents Kennedy and Johnson. A moral being would disobey the orders these robots are being designed to carry-out, and -- by being robots -- to carry out without any question of refusal. Only a U.S. philosophy professor could imagine applying a varnish of "morality" to this project.
The Third Law should be a warning to us. Having tossed aside Laws one and two, what limitations are left to be applied should Law three be implemented? Assume the Pentagon designs its robots to protect their own existence, except when . . . what? Except when doing so would require disobeying a more important order? But which order is more important? Except when doing so would require killing the wrong kind of person(s)? But which are they? The humans not threatening the robot? That's rather a failure as a limitation.
Let's face it, the Pentagon needs brand new laws of robotics. May I suggest the following:
1. A Pentagon robot must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon robot must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon robot must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
This set of laws differs from Asimov's in a number of ways.  For one thing, it completely lacks morality.  It is designed for killing, not protecting.  By prioritizing killing in the First Law, rather than protecting, this set of laws also allows for the possibility of robots sacrificing themselves to kill rather than to protect -- as well as the possibility of robots turning on their masters. 
This set of laws differs much less -- possibly not at all -- from the set of laws currently followed by human members of the U.S. military.  The great distinction that people imagine between autonomous and piloted drones vanishes when you learn a little about the thought habits of human drone pilots.  They, like other members of the U.S. military, follow these laws:
1. A Pentagon human must kill and injure human beings as ordered.
2. A Pentagon human must obey all orders, except where such orders result from human weakness and conflict with the mission to kill and injure.
3. A Pentagon human must protect its own existence as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.
The job of the philosophy professors is to apply these laws to robots while neither changing them nor letting on to have figured out what they are.  In other words, it's just like teaching a course in the classics to a room full of students.  Thank goodness our academia has produced the men and women for this job.

Jobless Grads

Political Cartoon is by Rick McKee in The Augusta Chronicle.