Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Another Birthday (They Come So Fast Now!)

(Image is from

Russia And United States Should Both Get Out Of Mid-East

(Photo is from the website of ABC News.)

The United States is not the only super-power involved in the ongoing war in the Middle East now. The Russians have decided to jump in, and have already sent weapons and troops to the area -- and that has politicians of both U.S. political parties whining loudly (saying Russia is only interested in saving the Syrian dictator).

Both the United States and Russia claim they are going to save the world from ISIS, and from terrorism. That is ridiculous. ISIS is not a real threat outside the Middle East, and terrorism can be handled much better in a different way (diplomacy, intelligence-gathering, and law enforcement).The truth is that both want to be seen as "savior" of the Middle East.

And neither can accomplish that rather suspect goal. Both countries will be viewed as outsiders invading the muslim world (and in the case of the U.S., christian invaders attacking muslim countries). And that, combined with the killing of innocent civilians (which both will do) can only increase muslim opposition -- and help the ISIS efforts to recruit even more people to their cause.

The sad fact is that both Russian and U.S. involvement just make the situation worse. ISIS is a problem for the Middle East countries -- and it must be solved by those countries. Right now, those countries are not involved in the fight (or have only a very minimal involvement). They are still involved in the Sunni-Shiite debate, and won't enter because they don't want to help or hinder the faction they oppose or support.

But if the United States and Russia weren't involved, these countries would have to step up and handle the ISIS threat themselves -- and ISIS is a radical group that would love to take over the entire Middle East (both Sunni and Shiite countries). They don't respect either muslim faction, and the countries in that region know that. They just are happy to let the Russians and Americans do their fighting for them.

Could ISIS win if the United States and Russia weren't involved? Those two countries will say yes, but I doubt that's true. If the super-powers get out of the way, the other muslim countries would have to get involved (because they know ISIS will take them on one by one) -- and those countries have many more troops and much more firepower than ISIS does, and they would be fighting for their own survival.

This situation won't be solved as long as the United States and Russia are involved. They both need to leave, and let the muslim countries handle the problem. They are the only ones who can.

Stepping Down

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

Another North Carolina Presidential Poll

A few days ago, I brought you a poll of North Carolina voters on their presidential preferences done by Elon University. Now another poll has been released about North Carolina preferences It is the Public Policy Polling survey -- done between September 24th and 27th of a random sample of 605 Democratic voters (with a margin of error of 4 points), and 576 Republican voters (with a margin of error of 4.1 points).

This poll shows Hillary Clinton with only a 7 point lead -- but that lead is over Joe Biden (who is not even a candidate). Her lead over Bernie Sanders was 20 points -- and when Biden is not included in the choices, that lead of Clinton over Sanders jumps to 27.8 points. Sanders is just having trouble getting any traction in North Carolina -- getting only 17% support among Democrats, and only 23% support without Biden being considered.

This could always change after the first Democratic debate (which is about two weeks away), but I doubt it will. Both Clinton and Sanders are excellent debaters, and I doubt either will score a huge victory.

On the Republican side, there are four candidates in double figures in North Carolina -- Donald Trump with 26%, Ben Carson with 21%, Carly Fiorina with 12%, and Marco Rubio with 10%. The really amazing thing, for me, is how far Jeb Bush has fallen. He has only 5% support, which puts him in seventh place -- behind Ted Cruz with 9% and Mike Huckabee with 6%. Bush is looking more and more like an "also ran".


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Wealth Is Being Re-Distributed (To The Rich)

(Image was found at Canadian Investor Magazine.)

We hear a lot from the Republicans about how bad the re-distrubition of wealth is. They would have you think that the only re-distribution of wealth that's happening is the government taking money away from hard-working Americans to give it to the "lazy" people on welfare. That is so wrong that it would be laughable, if this silly argument wasn't being taken seriously by far too many Americans.

Those who believe that specious argument simply don't understand how our economy works. Money is being re-distributed every hour of every day in the United States. In fact, monetary re-distribution is an essential element of a capitalist "free enterprise" economy. Without it, capitalism could not exist -- since every time something is bought or sold, money is being re-distributed. And in a fair economy, money would be re-distributed both up and down.

The Republicans won't tell you this, because they want the re-distribution to work only one way -- from the poor, working-class, and middle-class to the rich. While they appeal to religion and patriotism to get votes, their real aim is to keep the economic policies they have passed -- policies that have tilted the economic playing field to favor the rich (and corporations, and insure that upward re-distribution is the only re-distribution allowed.

They tell us that this upward re-distribution will eventually result in money trickling back down to all Americans, but that has not happened in the past, and won't happen in the future. Their policy benefits only the rich, and increases the gap between the rich and the rest of America (as the money flows away from the 99% to the 1%).

Here is how Robert Reich describes this upward re-distribution:

You often hear inequality has widened because globalization and technological change have made most people less competitive, while making the best educated more competitive.
There’s some truth to this. The tasks most people used to do can now be done more cheaply by lower-paid workers abroad or by computer-driven machines.
But this common explanation overlooks a critically important phenomenon: the increasing concentration of political power in a corporate and financial elite that has been able to influence the rules by which the economy runs.
As I argue in my new book, “Saving Capitalism: For the Many, Not the Few” (out this week), this transformation has amounted to a pre-distribution upward.
Intellectual property rights—patents, trademarks, and copyrights—have been enlarged and extended, for example, creating windfalls for pharmaceutical companies.
Americans now pay the highest pharmaceutical costs of any advanced nation.
At the same time, antitrust laws have been relaxed for corporations with significant market power, such as big food companies, cable companies facing little or no broadband competition, big airlines, and the largest Wall Street banks.
As a result, Americans pay more for broadband Internet, food, airline tickets, and banking services than the citizens of any other advanced nation.
Bankruptcy laws have been loosened for large corporations—airlines, automobile manufacturers, even casino magnates like Donald Trump—allowing them to leave workers and communities stranded.
But bankruptcy has not been extended to homeowners burdened by mortgage debt or to graduates laden with student debt. Their debts won’t be forgiven.
The largest banks and auto manufacturers were bailed out in 2008, shifting the risks of economic failure onto the backs of average working people and taxpayers.
Contract laws have been altered to require mandatory arbitration before private judges selected by big corporations. Securities laws have been relaxed to allow insider trading of confidential information.
CEOs now use stock buybacks to boost share prices when they cash in their own stock options.
Tax laws have special loopholes for the partners of hedge funds and private-equity funds, special favors for the oil and gas industry, lower marginal income-tax rates on the highest incomes, and reduced estate taxes on great wealth.
Meanwhile, so-called “free trade” agreements, such as the pending Trans Pacific Partnership, give stronger protection to intellectual property and financial assets but less protection to the labor of average working Americans.
Today, nearly one out of every three working Americans is in a part-time job. Many are consultants, freelancers, and independent contractors. Two-thirds are living paycheck to paycheck.
And employment benefits have shriveled. The portion of workers with any pension connected to their job has fallen from just over half in 1979 to under 35 percent today.
Labor unions have been eviscerated. Fifty years ago, when General Motors was the largest employer in America, the typical GM worker, backed by a strong union, earned $35 an hour in today’s dollars.
Now America’s largest employer is Walmart, and the typical entry-level Walmart worker, without a union, earns about $9 an hour. 
More states have adopted so-called “right-to-work” laws, designed to bust unions. The National Labor Relations Board, understaffed and overburdened, has barely enforced collective bargaining.
All of these changes have resulted in higher corporate profits, higher returns for shareholders, and higher pay for top corporate executives and Wall Street bankers – and lower pay and higher prices for most other Americans.
They amount to a giant pre-distribution upward to the rich. But we’re not aware of them because they’re hidden inside the market.
The underlying problem, then, is not just globalization and technological changes that have made most American workers less competitive. Nor is it that they lack enough education to be sufficiently productive.
The more basic problem is that the market itself has become tilted ever more in the direction of moneyed interests that have exerted disproportionate influence over it, while average workers have steadily lost bargaining power—both economic and political—to receive as large a portion of the economy’s gains as they commanded in the first three decades after World War II.
Reversing the scourge of widening inequality requires reversing the upward pre-distributions within the rules of the market, and giving average people the bargaining power they need to get a larger share of the gains from growth.
The answer to this problem is not found in economics. It is found in politics. Ultimately, the trend toward widening inequality in America, as elsewhere, can be reversed only if the vast majority join together to demand fundamental change.
The most important political competition over the next decades will not be between the right and left, or between Republicans and Democrats. It will be between a majority of Americans who have been losing ground, and an economic elite that refuses to recognize or respond to its growing distress. 

(Cartoon image is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times)

Getting Screwed

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

A Word Of Caution (From Bill Nye)

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Bigotry Is A Choice

Trump's "Pie-In-Sky" Tax Plan Would Be A Disaster For U.S.

Donald Trump made the news yesterday by releasing his tax plan. On the surface, this plan may sound good to a lot of people, because it purports to reduce taxes for all Americans -- and nobody loves to pay taxes (no matter how necessary they are).

But if you look beneath the surface, you find this plan is not really the wonderful idea he has tried to paint it as being. First, he says he will eliminate taxes altogether for those making less than $25,000 a year (or $50,000 for married couples). But guess what -- those people pay little or no taxes already. This cut would mean nothing to the poor or the low-wage workers, and be only minimal for the rest.

The same can be said of middle-income workers making more than $25,000. They would get a small cut, but that's all. I'm not opposed to that, but let's look at who Trump's plan really benefits.

That of course, is the richest Americans and the corporations. It turns out that the richest Americans would see their tax rate reduced from 39.6% to only 25% ( a reduction of about 37% -- a much bigger percentage than the low-income and middle-income workers would get). And the giant corporations would do even better, with their tax rate being reduced to 15% (a whopping 62% reduction in their tax rate) -- and the money they make overseas would only be taxed at a rate of 10% (a enormous 75% reduction). In addition, he would lower the capital gains tax (which should be eliminated altogether) to only 20%, which benefits largely the richest Americans.

Trump would like for you to think that his plan would make taxation much fairer, but the opposite is true. It would make the tax system even more unfair -- and it would radically increase the gap in wealth and income between the rich and the rest of America (setting us up for another depression -- far worse than the terrible Bush Recession).

And how would he pay for this plan? Again, all we get are smoke and mirrors. He says he would eliminate loopholes enjoyed by the rich. Unfortunately, those loopholes would not equal the amount of taxes cut. In fact, the richest Americans would still be paying less under Trump's plan even if those loopholes were eliminated.

And then Trump mirrors the failed predictions of Reagan and Bush II -- that lowering taxes would actually produce more in government revenue because it would spur economic growth. That didn't work for Reagan or Bush II, and it won't work for Trump. Lower taxes have never spurred economic growth (only increased demand can do that), and even an elementary school student could do this math (that cutting the amount of taxes collected would decrease the amount of government revenue collected). That is just a fact.

The truth is that Trump's plan would be a disaster for this country. It would be mainly a huge giveaway to the rich and the corporations -- and it would substantially balloon the budget deficit (which would substantially increase the national debt).

Trump's plan is just the same old flawed Republican plans. It hasn't worked in the past, and it won't work in the future. It's just an illusion that he hopes the American people will buy (so they will vote for him). Don't fall for it!

(NOTE -- The caricature of Donald Trump above is by DonkeyHotey.)


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

93% Of All Americans Want Background Check Law Fixed

These results are from the new Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between September 17th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,574 registered voters, with a margin of error of 2.5 points.

Americans are split over whether this country should have stricter gun laws -- with a small plurality (48% to 45%) saying they wouldn't want stricter gun laws. I think that's because "stricter gun laws" is such a general term that it gives many visions of outlawing guns and/or taking guns away from law-abiding citizens (that's to some very effective propaganda from the NRA).

But there is one gun issue on which nearly all Americans agree. When you specifically ask whether a background check should be done on ALL people trying to buy a gun, the answer is overwhelmingly yes -- about 93% of the general population. And that opinion holds true for all demographic groups -- including 90% of Republicans and 93% of people with a gun in their household.

I have trouble understanding why our politicians in Washington refuse to fix the background check law (which still allows 40% of all guns sold in this country each year to be sold without a background check). Plugging the loopholes in that law would save thousands of lives each year, and it come with no political cost (since 93% of the public supports it).

I have to believe that far too many of our politicians have sold their soul (and their vote) to the NRA. We must vote those fools out of office. They were elected to serve the American people -- not the NRA and the gun manufacturers (the only ones opposed to fixing the background check law).

His Idea ?

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

Nearly 7 Out Of 10 People Say NO To Another Shutdown

The far-right Republicans in Congress are poised to shutdown the government again. And the issue they chose to force this shutdown over is the defunding of Planned Parenthood. These politicians know that no government money is used to fund abortions -- not at Planned Parenthood, or anywhere else. There is already a federal law to prevent that -- and the Republicans should know that, because they are the ones that passed that law.

But this is not about Planned Parenthood. It is a political game designed to appeal to the evangelicals and teabaggers in the GOP base. These far-right Republicans actually seem to think that most Republicans (and most Americans) like their position, and would be willing to endure another government shutdown to defund Planned Parenthood. They are wrong on both counts.

While their actions may please the evangelicals and teabaggers, it does not represent the position of most Republicans (or most religious people in this country). It turns out that 56% of Republicans oppose a shutdown over this issue, and even larger majorities of religious people oppose a shutdown (64% of protestants and 66% of catholics). And those majorities are also apparent with both sexes, all races, and all age groups.

The far-right Republicans are playing a dangerous game by trying to force a government shutdown -- a political game that could further damage their party on election day. Speaker of the House John Boehner is their best hope to avoid that. By resigning, he is now free to form a coalition of right-wing Republicans (who don't want a shutdown) and Democrats to take the Planned Parenthood defunding out of the budget bill. That coalition could probably pass that, and that amended budget bill could probably pass in the Senate.

Will Boehner step forward and get that done? We'll know very soon, because time is running out.

The chart above is from the Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between September 17th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,574 registered voters, and has a margin of error of 2.5 points.

Feels So Good When You Stop

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Do We Really Have An "Immigrant Problem" In The U.S. ?

(This image is from the website Modern American History.)

The Republicans would like for you to believe that we have a serious problem of immigrants in this nation of immigrants -- and that there are so many immigrants (especially undocumented immigrants) that they are destroying this country. I have never believed that was true. Immigrants are the backbone of this country -- and even the undocumented immigrants give to this country far more than they take. They boost our economy by taking jobs no one else wants, and by spending billions of dollars in this country -- and believe it or not, they pay billions in taxes (income taxes, property taxes, sales taxes, fees, etc.).

O. Ricardo Pimentel has written an article about this for the San Antonio Express-News, and it is well worth your time. He says:

The sound and fury coming out of the GOP presidential race on immigration is puzzling. The facts on the ground simply don’t merit the hysteria. 
Mexican anthropologist Jorge Durand laid this out in a talk Sept. 15 at the University of Texas at San Antonio’s downtown campus. He detailed the “collapse” of migration from Mexico — you know, the country Donald Trump nonetheless continues to accuse of sending us bunches of criminals and rapists.
Sorry, just not happening.
Durand — co-founder of the statistic-gathering, trend-spotting Mexican Migration Project — spoke as part of the UTSA College of Public Policy’s distinguished lecture series. He noted that migration from Mexico reached a “saturation” point in 2007 — 10 percent of Mexicans living in the United States. But that flow has abated so much that one traditional region for migration, Los Altos de Jalisco, sends virtually no one anymore.
Yes, the 2008 economic collapse in the U.S. and tighter border security have played a role, but playing bigger ones are declining birthrates and the ability to earn a nominally living wage in Mexico, particularly when families pool resources. 
Even with increased educational levels and wages in Mexico, paying $5,000 or so to a coyote to shepherd you across is cost prohibitive. And relatives on the U.S. side of the border aren’t financing such treks anymore.
Undocumented immigration overall, but particularly from Mexico, has been at a historic low. Central Americans are still coming but not in last year’s numbers. And though the administration has been curtailing removals of undocumented immigrants this year — 229,000 — it has reportedly outpaced previous administrations in the other years of its tenure, more than 414,000 in 2014 alone.
Wait, didn’t you just see an article that said the number of foreign-born in the U.S. population jumped 1.04 million last year? Right, but if you read down, you saw that this is according to government data that doesn’t account for whether the immigrants are here legally or not. And it notes that other research says the numbers for the undocumented variety are flat. Oh, and most of this growth has been fueled by Asian immigration, which doesn’t seem to be the focus of those demagoguing on the issue.
Moreover, a study released last week by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine shows that the newest generations of immigrants are assimilating as quickly and as much as previous generations. They are also learning English “as rapidly or faster.” 
So, that leaves crime by undocumented immigrants. A few legitimately generate headlines and warrant outrage because they involve repeat felons who should have been deported. Here’s what doesn’t get a headline, however: Undocumented immigrants are no more likely — and many experts say far less likely — to commit violent crimes than the native born. 
Obviously, there is under way an attempt to scare you to the primary polls and the undocumented folks already here can be part of the scare tactic. Not only did they get here — illegally!!!! — but they, gasp, stayed.
The problem: These immigrants essentially work for you. If mass deportations were to occur, good luck finding people to do all those jobs Americans won’t do. Good luck also paying higher prices for everything from fruit and vegetables to new houses and restaurant meals. 
Perhaps the real fear is what many an emailer has told me is my motivation in supporting immigration reform — the creation of more Democrats.
That’s rich.
Immigration reform will occur at some point because it has to — labor needs and economics generally will demand it. And there will be no mass deportations because they are logistically impractical and morally repugnant to even contemplate. 
This reform will likely inflict long waits until immigrants can move from provisional legal status to being eligible for citizenship — and these folks will gladly do the time and then act. Their citizen children will simply wait until they are 18 to decide whether to become politically active, in any case.
Here’s what’s rich. Republicans, today’s party of finger-pointing demagoguery, are the ones creating tomorrow’s Democrats among Latinos, immigrants or not. It’s a population growing mighty fast compared to most non-Hispanic groups. Talk about fulfilling your own prophesy, sleeping in a bed of your own making.

GOP Idiocy

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

Legal May Not Be Ethical

Monday, September 28, 2015

Democrats - The Party Of Fiscal Responsibility

New Poll Infers Trump Rise May Be Ending

These charts are made from a new NBC News / Wall Street Journal Poll -- done between September 20th and 24th of a random national sample of 230 Republican voters and 256 Democratic voters. The margin of error for Republicans is 6.5 points and for Democrats is 6.1 points.

The margin of error is fairly large for this poll, but if it is to be believed, a couple of interesting things may be happening. The first would be that Donald Trump may have leveled off -- and could even be slightly dropping. He only scores 21% support in the poll, lower than in any other recent poll, and is only a single point in front of Ben Carson (which considering the margin of error would mean they are actually tied). Rubio and Fiorina tied for third place, with both finishing with 11% support.

On the Democratic side, could Bernie Sanders finally be gaining support again? All recent polls have shown him stuck in the mid-twenties, but this poll shows him at 35% (only 7 points behind Hillary Clinton). Of course that is with Biden in the race (which he isn't). Taking Biden out of the mix increases Hillary's support to a majority again (53%), and increases her lead to 15 points.

Is this poll correct? Is Trump losing support and Sanders gaining support? I'm not sold on either yet. The poll could be an outlier (because of the small sample). We'll just have to wait and see what some other new polls show.

Hard Pill To Swallow

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Most People Still Think Hillary Will Be Democratic Nominee

There has been a lot of talk from the media about how Hillary Clinton is faltering, and a lot of talk from his supporters about how Bernie Sanders is surging -- but most Democrats (and most of the general public) thinks Hillary Clinton is the likely Democratic nominee. That's the opinion of 75% of Democrats and 60% of the general public (purple shaded area on chart).

These numbers are from a new Rasmussen Poll -- done on September 14th and 15th of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a margin of error of 3 points.

Teabagger Electoral "Logic"

Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at

Black (?) Republicans

I "borrowed" this photo from the great blog --  Juanita Jean's (The World's Most Dangerous Beauty Salon, Inc.). It purports to be the booth of the Black Republican Committee. Notice anything strange about it?

The GOP's Golden Rule

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

Why Democrats Are Better For The Economy Than GOP

I've shown you this chart before, but it certainly bears repeating. It shows how the economy has done in the last 50 years, under both Democratic presidents (22 years) and Republican presidents (28 years). The results aren't even very close. The economy has done much better under Democrats than Republicans.

Why is this? My friend and fellow blogger, Frank Moraes, gives us his opinion at the blog Frankly Curious -- and it's well worth reading. He says:

It is well know (among liberals at least), that the economy has done much better under Democratic administrations than under Republicans -- going back to World War II. And the difference is big: it's almost double in terms of GDP growth. But I've always been skeptical about the claim. While it is certainly true, it isn't based upon a lot of data -- just 12 presidencies. And besides, I tended to think that the president doesn't have that big an effect on the economy. But then I read Mark Thoma in The Fiscal TimesThe Political Party of the President Matters for the Economy.
Thoma is a liberal, but he's no bomb thrower. He's a very careful economist. If it had been just anyone writing such an article, I probably would have passed it by. But instead, I read it, and he makes a very compelling case. He goes through the many ways that presidents do, in fact, effect the economy. It wasn't all new to me, but it I wasn't thinking too clearly even about the stuff that I knew. One thing that did surprise me is that because people don't stay on the Federal Reserve board for very long, both George W Bush and Obama were able to fill it with all their own people. That matters. As Thomas put it, if we had had a Republican in the White House "does anyone doubt that policy would have been much different? Would interest rates still be at the lower bound? Would the Fed’s balance sheet be as large?"
The more obvious way the president matters is in fiscal policy. Democrats approach recessions in ways that actually help: tax cuts for the poor and middle classes; extended unemployment insurance; infrastructure spending. Republicans approach recessions the way they do everything: tax cuts for the rich. Even though "there’s little evidence that cutting taxes on the wealthy spurs economic growth, particularly in a severe recession when the tax reductions mostly end up as idle savings." Basically, a recession is just an excuse for Republicans to do what they want to do anyway.
What's more, individuals and businesses are more confident about the economic outlook when the Democrats are in charge. So they spend and invest more. That, I must say, is a bit of a shock to me. If the people know that the economy will do better under the Democrats, why do they ever vote for the Republicans? I understand that turnout is an issue. But if even businesses know it, why hasn't there been a huge amount of pressure on the Republican Party to change its economic policies?
When put this way, it all seems so clear. The Republicans really are all about the shock doctrine: they don't care about doing what is best for the economy; they have a set of things they want to do -- which they always want to do -- and that is what they do. It would be like going to a dentist who only knows how to pull teeth. Before long, you would have no teeth.
If you want to do a little low key activism, you might discuss this issue with people who aren't much into politics. You don't have to mention policies. You just have to talk about how they feel about the economy under Democrats and Republicans. Because the last time the economy did reasonably well under a Republican was under Reagan -- 30 years ago. And all the Republican Party has offered since are the same policies, only more so. And it hasn't worked. And it isn't intended to. It is intended to just take more money away from you and me and give it to the rich.

Close Call ?

Political Cartoon is by John Branch at

Free Your Mind

Sunday, September 27, 2015


North Carolina Voters Show Their Presidential Preferences

Bernie Sanders is doing very well in New Hampshire -- a small state that borders his home state of Vermont. But he is having difficulty getting traction in other states. I have brought you polls from states like Iowa, New York, South Carolina, Florida, and Texas -- and all of them show Hillary Clinton with a huge lead in the Democratic race.

Now we have a new state reporting -- North Carolina. And again, the results show Hillary Clinton with a large lead -- about 30.4 points over Sanders (53.4% to 23%). That's with Biden in the race. If he doesn't enter, Clinton's majority would be even bigger.

North Carolina Republicans surprised me a bit. They have Donald Trump and Ben Carson in a virtual tie -- with Trump leading by less than a point (21.5% to 20.9%). Fiorina is in third, but far behind with only 9.9%. Rubio has 7.4% and Bush comes in 5th with 7%.

The numbers come from the Elon University Poll -- done between September 17th and 21st. They questioned 427 North Carolina Democrats (with a margin of error of 4.74 points) and 516 Republicans (with a margin of error of 4.31 points).

Appealing To His Base ?

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at

September Averages In Both Party Presidential Races

These charts show the RealClearPolitics average of all the national presidential polls done during the month of September for both parties. The polls included in that average are: CNN/ORC Poll, Quinnipiac University Poll, Bloomberg News Poll, and Fox News Poll.

An Impossible Situation

Political Cartoon is by John Branch at

Whites Must Stand Up For Equal Justice

(Cartoon image is by Clay Bennett in the Chattanooga Times Free Press.)

The following is a post by Austin pastor Jim Rigby on his own excellent blog. While Rigby and I may not agree about religion, I agree with every word he has written in this post on equal justice. He says:

It now seems that white people who care about the suffering of black people have run out of every other option. The violence against our brothers and sisters will never end until we ourselves enter into a time of great suffering in solidarity with theirs. So long as we only work for racial justice within a system forged in the fires of white supremacy, we ourselves constitute the bars of their oppression (in spite of our best intentions.) We can no longer work for justice from safely behind the ivied walls of our white privilege. 

Dr. King has shown us all the way. All that is missing is the critical mass that white solidarity would provide. We ourselves must now violate the laws that oppress innocent and suffering members of our human family. We ourselves must fill the jail cells that have been built for them until there is no room for either of us. We must use the weight of our own numbers to end any human being’s status as “minority.”

The people who have been targeted for oppression are the only ones who can determine what actions are helpful, but it is time for every white person of conscience to report for duty. White people who care about the suffering of black people must begin to share the full cost of the freedom we say we want for all.

Republican Birth Control

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


Saturday, September 26, 2015


Boehner Resignation Could Be Good (In The Short Term)

By now, if you keep up with politics at all, you've probably heard that Speaker of the House John Boehner is resigning both his speakership and his House seat at the end of October. Some people (on both the left and the right) are celebrating, and others are fearful that this will just bring bigger problems for Congress (without solving anything).

I am in the latter group. I think it is terrible for the Republican Party, because he is likely to be replaced by a person even farther to the right -- or someone who will continue to have problems with those on the far-right. Neither is good for that party. They will be viewed as even more extreme (and the American people hate extremism) or they will continue to fight amongst themselves.

It will also be bad for Congress -- because Congress will continue to remain the dysfunctional body that it has become known for. It will remain a body that prefers to play political fames, rather than a body capable of compromise for the good of the country.

Having said all that, I do believe there may be a small silver lining to that dark cloud -- at least in the short term. It could give Speaker Boehner the freedom to act on his own and prevent a government shutdown.

Boehner had promised that there would be no government shutdown. But things got out of hand in Congress. The teabagger congressmen on the far-right were able to include in the budget bill a provision to defund Planned Parenthood (which would hurt health care for many women). They knew full well that this had no chance of passing the Senate, and if by some miracle it did, would be vetoed by the president. But they did it anyway. They want government shutdown to please the teabagger extremists in their base.

This put Speaker Boehner between a rock and a hard place. He had only two choices -- break his promise of no government shutdown, or take the Republicans who were with him and join the Democrats to prevent the shutdown. That latter option would have resulted in a no-confidence vote that probably would have ended his speakership (because there would have been enough votes on the far-right to deny him a majority, and it is unlikely that Democrats would have voted to save him).

His resignation frees him of this dilemma. He can now appeal to Democrats to help him (and the anti-shutdown Republicans with him) to help him pass a budget bill without the odious Planned Parenthood provision -- and that bill would prevent the impending government shutdown. While the far-right would not like that, they would have no recourse against him.

Will Boehner now act to stop the government shutdown. I hope he does. The ball is now back in his court, and he can do that if he wants to keep his "no shutdown" promise. I think he will. We'll find out in the next few days.

(The caricature of Speaker Boehner above is by DonkeyHotey.)


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Thoughts Of An Atheist On The Pope's Visit

(Cartoon is by Steve Breen in the San Diego Union Tribune.)

Regular readers of this blog will know I am an atheist. I don't just not believe there is a god -- but believe religion (of all kinds) is an evil that has caused many problems and much violence all over the world. I believe the world would be a better place if there was no religion.

Having said that, you might think I would be upset at this powerful religious leader visiting this country -- and that I would join many of my fellow atheists in denigrating or making fun of the Pope's visit. But if you did think that, then you would be wrong.

While I cannot accept the religion he represents, I have to admit that I like Pope Francis as a person. I truly believe that he is a kind person, who loves all people-- including non-believers like myself. I like that he is most comfortable around the poor, the disadvantaged, and children. And I like much of the message he is sending around the world.

Like it or not, the Pope is a world leader, and his opinions resonate with many millions of people. And it is a good thing that he is using his "bully pulpit" to spread ideas like addressing the shortcomings of capitalism, helping the poor, protecting the planet from pollution and global warming, accepting refugees and immigrants, working to stop wars, and generally treating other humans in a loving and decent manner.

Those are good things, and you don't have to be religious to know that. I welcome his bringing that message to this country, and even taking it into the belly of the beast (Congress). Perhaps his visit will have an influence on people, and help them to have the courage to press forward on these progressive policies -- and help to change things for the better in this country (putting the welfare of the people above the desire for profit).

Pope Francis is not perfect. No man is perfect. But I believe he is sincere in his desire to help the poor and underprivileged and save the planet. And that makes him worthy of respect.

The Pope And Congress

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

A Bit Of Praise For A Texas (And American) Hero

The man pictured at left is Kenneth Kendrick. He is a personal hero of mine, and I hope, also a friend. So I was very pleased to read the post below, praising him for his courage in exposing a dangerous situation in our food supply. It was written by Darin Detwiler at Food Safety News.

Kenneth Kendrick, missing Monday from the federal courthouse in Albany, GA, did not hear the praise that came from a witness during a pivotal day in the world of food safety.
Kendrick is a former assistant plant manager of the Plainview, Texas, peanut processing facility once owned by the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). On Sept. 21, 2015, his past bosses and supervisors — Stewart Parnell, former owner of PCA, Michael Parnell, former peanut broker, and Mary Wilkerson, former quality assurance manager — sat for sentencing in the same courthouse in which their federal trial was conducted a year earlier.
At the heart of this trial and sentencing sits the 2008-09 Salmonella outbreak, considered one of the most significant in U.S. history. The CDC report on this multistate outbreak identifies 714 clinically confirmed illnesses across 46 states and nine deaths. Later estimates from the CDC place the number of potential victims not reporting an illness at more than 22,000.
Their attempts to hide evidence and obstruct justice delayed investigators from finding the true source of the contamination and bringing an end to the outbreak sooner.
Unbeknownst to investigators, PCA also had a peanut processing plant in Plainview, Texas, where Kendrick worked for several months in 2006. Back then, Kendrick observed numerous problems in the Texas plant, including rat infestations, bird nests, and a roof leak — all of which triggered his concern for feces in the product. According to Kendrick, “particularly with water leaking off a roof, bird feces can wash in and drip onto the peanuts.”
After only a few months on the job, Kendrick chose to leave his position with PCA because, as he stated, “I knew it was a train wreck and something unethical and bad was about to happen.”
“When I was working there, [PCA had] nothing that resembled a quality assurance program,” Kendrick said. “I came from a lab testing background in the meat industry. I thought there would be regular testing, like in the meat industry… .”
Years later, when Kendrick learned that the widespread Salmonella outbreak in 2008-09 had been traced back to PCA’s Georgia plant, he spent “hundreds of hours” trying to contact the media and federal food or health agencies to alert them to the numerous violations he witnessed in PCA’s plant in Plainview. Attempt after attempt failed to result in a reply from anyone. Kendrick sent anonymous emails and letters to the Texas Department of Health and to companies that purchased products from his plant, but he never received a response from them.
The only response he received was from the Chicago office of STOP Foodborne Illness, the leading national non-profit organization dedicated to the prevention of illness and death from foodborne pathogens. STOP convinced FDA officials to meet with Kendrick in January 2009.
The staff at STOP Foodborne Illness also connected Kendrick with Gardiner Harris, a reporter at The New York Times. Harris’ article, “After Tests, Peanut Plant in Texas Is Closed,” appeared in the Feb. 11, 2009, Health and Policy section of the paper.
After that article appeared, STOP Foodborne Illness connected Kendrick with a producer from ABC’s “Good Morning America” show.
During a Feb. 16, 2009, exclusive interview with the show, Kendrick discussed how his granddaughter became ill with Salmonella-like symptoms for three weeks in December, a time when she only wanted to eat peanut butter crackers.
“So I kept giving her the crackers and she kept getting sicker,” Kendrick said. “I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights over that, a lot of crying over that issue.” He then went on to describe in shocking detail the conditions he observed at the PCA plant in Texas.
After his interviews, investigators shifted their focus to the plant where Kendrick once worked. Texas officials had no idea that the Plainview facility even existed. Stewart Parnell had not registered his Texas peanut facility as a food processing plant with the state.
As a result of Kendrick’s whistleblowing, federal authorities and the Texas Department of Health investigated the Plainview plant as another source of the outbreak. His information helped prove that peanut products were being shipped between PCA facilities in different states — contrary to what Parnell had told the public and investigators throughout the outbreak.
In 2013, the U.S. Department of Justice indicted Parnell, his brother, and three other executives involved in the attempts to conceal problems at PCA on charges of fraud, wire fraud, obstruction of justice, and more than 70 other charges.
At the end of their 2014 trial, a 12-member jury found Stewart Parnell guilty on 67 federal felony counts, Michael Parnell guilty on 30 counts, and Wilkerson guilty on one of two counts of obstruction of justice.
The 2015 sentencing of the five convicted food industry executives included the testimonies of victims and families affected by PCA and the outbreak of Salmonella tied to the company. Jeff Almer, who lost his mother during the outbreak, named each guilty executive and had a word or two for them. He asked Wilkerson about her definition of quality assurance. He even stared at Stewart Parnell and said, “You killed my mom.”
Before ending his testimony, Almer stated before the court his appreciation for the efforts of Kenneth Kendrick in helping to make sure that the investigation, as well as the subsequent trial and sentencing, became possible.
On Monday, Sept. 21, 2015, the judge handed Stewart Parnell a sentence of 28 years in prison, Michael Parnell 20 years, and Mary Wilkerson 5 years. Former PCA managers Daniel Kilgore and Samuel Lightsey, who pleaded guilty under agreements with federal prosecutors, are scheduled to receive their sentences on Oct. 1, 2015.

Proselytizing The Pope

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