Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Happy Halloween

I wish all of my readers a very happy and safe Halloween holiday.

Democratic Lead Increasing As Election Gets Closer

The chart above is from the USC Dornsife / Los Angeles Times Poll. They questioned 2,350 likely voters between October 21st and 27th, and the poll has a margin of error of 2 points. It shows that the Democratic lead seems to be growing as the election nears. Democrats currently have a 17 point lead (Democrats 57% to Republicans 40%).


Political Cartoon is by Mark Streeter in the Savannah Morning News.

Trump Wants To Alter The Constitution By Executive Order

The Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution guarantees citizenship to any person born in the United States. It's commonly called "birthright citizenship". Donald Trump doesn't like it, and he thinks he can change that by issuing an executive order.

In an interview with Axios on HBO, Trump said the following:

"It was always told to me that you needed a constitutional amendment. Guess what? You don't." 

"You can definitely do it with an Act of Congress. But now they're saying I can do it just with an executive order."

"We're the only country in the world where a person comes in and has a baby, and the baby is essentially a citizen of the United States ... with all of those benefits. It's ridiculous. It's ridiculous. And it has to end." 

"It's in the process. It'll happen ... with an executive order."

He's wrong. Congress cannot change the Constitution by passing a law, and a president cannot change it by issuing an executive order. All laws passed by Congress must agree with the Constitution as written, and so must all presidential executive orders. If they do not, then they will be nullified by the Supreme Court.

Trump is also wrong about the United States being the only country that has birthright citizenship. (See below for other countries that offer it).

Maybe Trump thinks the conservative majority on the Supreme Court will back his effort to change the Constitution by executive order. I doubt it though. I think most of those conservative justices would support a literal reading of the Fourteenth Amendment (which is very clear about birthright citizenship).

More likely is that this is just more red meat for his racist and xenophobic base -- to get them out to vote in this congressional election (like his demonization of immigrants and refugees).

Other countries with birthright citizenship:

1.Antigua and Barbuda
2. Argentina
3. Barbados
4. Belize
5. Bolivia
6. Brazil
7. Canada
8. Chad
9. Chile
10. Costa Rica
11. Cuba
12. Dominica
13. Ecuador
14. El Salvador
15. Fiji
16. Grenada
17. Guatamala
19. Honduras
20. Jamaica
21. Lesotho
22. Mexico
23. Nicaragua
24. Pakistan
25. Panama
26. Paraguay
27. Peru
28. Saint Kitts and Navia
29. Saint Lucia
30. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
31. Tanzania
32. Trinidad and Tobago
33. Tuvalu
34. Uruguay
35. Venezuela


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

New Poll Shows Senate Race In Texas Is Close

The chart above reflects the results of the latest Quinnipiac University Poll on the Senate race in Texas. The poll questioned 1,078 likely voters between October 22nd and 28th, and has a margin of error of 3.5 points.

The poll has incumbent Republican Ted Cruz with a 5 point lead over Democrat Beto O'Rourke. Don't let that discourage you if you're a Democrat, or keep you from voting. The poll is a "likely voter" model -- and the huge turnout this year may well show that model to be wrong.

This race is close, and it will be won by the candidate that does the best job of getting his voters to the polls. That would be men, Whites, and Republicans for Cruz -- and it would be women, Blacks, Hispanics, Independents, and Democrats for O'Rourke.

Haunted (White) House

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at

Trump (& Ivanka, Eric, Don Jr.) Accused Of Financial Scams

(This caricature of Trump is by DonkeyHotey.)

The following is just a part of an excellent article about Trump (and three of his children) engaging in financial scams to use the Trump name to bilk people out of their hard-earned money. It is shameful (and probably criminal) behavior. The article was written for The New York Times by Maggie Haberman and Benjamin Weiser.

A new lawsuit accuses President Trump, his company and three of his children of using the Trump name to entice vulnerable people to invest in sham business opportunities.
Filed in federal court in Manhattan on Monday, the lawsuit comes just days before the midterm elections, raising questions about whether its timing is politically motivated. It is being underwritten by a nonprofit whose chairman has been a donor to Democratic candidates.
The allegations take aim at the heart of Mr. Trump’s personal narrative that he is a successful deal-maker who built a durable business, charging he and his family lent their name to a series of scams.
The 160-page complaint alleges that Mr. Trump and his family received secret payments from three business entities in exchange for promoting them as legitimate opportunities, when in reality they were get-rich-quick schemes that harmed investors, many of whom were unsophisticated and struggling financially.

Those business entities were ACN, a telecommunications marketing company that paid Mr. Trump millions of dollars to endorse its products; the Trump Network, a vitamin marketing enterprise; and the Trump Institute, which the suit said offered “extravagantly priced multiday training seminars” on Mr. Trump’s real estate “secrets.”

The four plaintiffs, who were identified only with pseudonyms like Jane Doe, depict the Trump Organization as a racketeering enterprise that defrauded thousands of people for years as the president turned from construction to licensing his name for profit. The suit also names Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump and Eric Trump as defendants.

Scary (And Sad)

Political Cartoon is by Monte Wolverton at

We Must Be Concerned About The System

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

GOP Poverty Plan

Youth Vote Favors Democrats According To A New Poll

Much has been discussed and written about the youth vote in the coming election. Will young voters go to the polls or stay home on November 6th? Who will they vote for? What do they think of the issues?

This new poll helps to answer those questions.

It is the Harvard Kennedy School Institute of Politics Poll. They questioned a national sample of 2,003 18 to 29 year-olds between October 3rd and 17th. The poll has a margin of error of 3.18 points.

Life Or Muerte

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz

Open Letter From Jewish Leaders Should Be From All Of Us

(Cartoon image is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.)

After the tragedy in Pittsburgh, Trump didn't even suspend his political hate speech for one day. He did however say he might go to Pittsburgh. I hope he doesn't, because he is likely to try and turn it into another self-serving political event.

Many others feel the same way. After hearing he might go to Pittsburg, 11 Jewish leaders penned an open letter to Trump -- a letter that has now been signed by over 36,000 people. That letter, which was read outside the White House on the day after the shooting, is printed below.

Personally, I would take it further. Decent people around the country should make it clear that Trump is not welcome in their cities either -- until he apologizes for his odious behavior and learns to act like a decent human.

Here is the letter from Bend The Arc:

President Trump:
Yesterday, a gunman slaughtered 11 Americans during Shabbat morning services. We mourn with the victims’ families and pray for the wounded. Here in Mr. Rogers’ neighborhood, we express gratitude for the first responders and for the outpouring of support from our neighbors near and far. We are committed to healing as a community while we recommit ourselves to repairing our nation.
For the past three years your words and your policies have emboldened a growing white nationalist movement. You yourself called the murderer evil, but yesterday’s violence is the direct culmination of your influence.  
President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you fully denounce white nationalism.
Our Jewish community is not the only group you have targeted.  You have also deliberately undermined the safety of people of color, Muslims, LGBTQ people, and people with disabilities. Yesterday’s massacre is not the first act of terror you incited against a minority group in our country.  
President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you stop targeting and endangering all minorities.
The murderer’s last public statement invoked the compassionate work of the Jewish refugee service HIAS at the end of a week in which you spread lies and sowed fear about migrant families in Central America. He killed Jews in order to undermine the efforts of all those who find shared humanity with immigrants and refugees.
President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you cease your assault on immigrants and refugees.
The Torah teaches that every human being is made b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.
This means all of us.
In our neighbors, Americans, and people worldwide who have reached out to give our community strength, there we find the image of God.  While we cannot speak for all Pittsburghers, or even all Jewish Pittsburghers, we know we speak for a diverse and unified group when we say:
President Trump, you are not welcome in Pittsburgh until you commit yourself to compassionate, democratic policies that recognize the dignity of all of us.

Bend the Arc: Pittsburgh Steering Committee

A Real Scare

Political Cartoon is by Ed Wexler at

Genetics Tells Us That Race Is A False Concept

In his campaign, Donald Trump promised to be a "uniter". After being sworn into office, he has done just the opposite of that. He has divided this country along racial (and ethnicity and political) lines. He has given racists and white supremacists the idea that this countries leader agrees with them. That has brought them back into public view, and encouraged them to act on their sick beliefs.

In just the last few days, we have seen these haters target Blacks and Jews for death. It is time for decent Americans of all colors (but especially whites) to step forward and drive this evil from our society.

Race is a false concept. It doesn't exist. It was invented by whites to justify colonialism, slavery, and theft of land and resources. It was exported to the Americas, where it found a fertile breeding ground (especially in the United States). It has done enough damage in this country (and in others), and it is time to put this false concept into the trash bin of history.

The following is from The American Journal of Human Genetics in an article published on October 19th:

The American Society of Human Genetics (ASHG) is alarmed to see a societal resurgence of groups rejecting the value of genetic diversity and using discredited or distorted genetic concepts to bolster bogus claims of white supremacy. ASHG denounces this misuse of genetics to feed racist ideologies. In public dialog, our research community should be clear about genetic knowledge related to ancestry and genomic diversity. To that end, ASHG affirms the following:
  • Genetics demonstrates that humans cannot be divided into biologically distinct subcategories. Although there are clear observable correlations between variation in the human genome and how individuals identify by race, the study of human genetics challenges the traditional concept of different races of humans as biologically separate and distinct. This is validated by many decades of research, including recent examples.
  • Most human genetic variation is distributed as a gradient, so distinct boundaries between population groups cannot be accurately assigned. There is considerable genetic overlap among members of different populations. Such patterns of genome variation are explained by patterns of migration and mixing of different populations throughout human history.
     In this way, genetics exposes the concept of “racial purity” as scientifically meaningless.
  • It follows that there can be no genetics-based support for claiming one group as superior to another. Although a person’s genetics influences their phenotypic characteristics, and self-identified race might be influenced by physical appearance, race itself is a social construct. Any attempt to use genetics to rank populations demonstrates a fundamental misunderstanding of genetics.
  • The past decade has seen the emergence of strategies for assessing an individual’s genetic ancestry. Such analyses
     are providing increasingly accurate ways of helping to define individuals’ ancestral origins and enabling new ways to explore and discuss ancestries that move us beyond blunt definitions of self-identified race.
Through its support for research at the leading edge of human genetics, ASHG will continue to advance scientific knowledge and debunk genetics-based arguments promoting racial supremacy. ASHG also encourages all society members to be active as citizens in political, policy, and social advocacy organizations that reflect their values. This is a perfect complement to their scientific contributions to this debate through ASHG.
ASHG will continue to foster dialog in the field on the impact, value, and implications of diversity and ancestry within the research agenda, including through ASHG’s primary forums for scientific debate and discussion: The American Journal of Human Genetics and the ASHG Annual Meeting. Recognizing that the invocation of genetics to promote racist ideologies is one of many factors causing racism to persist, ASHG will focus in the public arena on contributing new fundamental knowledge to the societal dialog about ancestry, supporting greater diversity in research, continuing to engage the field and public to build genetic literacy, and addressing misconceptions of genetics and ancestry.

Removing The Threat

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

Have You Noticed ?

Monday, October 29, 2018

NOT The Tolerant Left

Dems Still Hold Solid Lead With Only Days To Go

These charts are from RealClearPolitics. The top chart shows the latest generic ballot polling. The second shows the history of the generic ballot polling for this election. Currently the Democrats hold a 7.6 point lead in the average of the most recent polls (Democrats 49.5% to Republicans 41.9%).

The Bet

Political Cartoon is by Jeff Koterba in the Omaha World-Herald.

First Week Of Texas Early Voting Far Stronger Than 2014

These 15 largest counties contain about 65% of the total registered voters in the state of Texas (which has 254 counties). The top chart shows the total number of voters who voted in the first week of early voting in Texas. Note that the numbers easily eclipse the number of early voter in the first week of 2014 (the last midterm election).

The second chart shows the percentage of registered voters in each county who voted in that first week of early voting, compared to the percentage in the first week from 2014.

The numbers in both charts are from the office of the Texas Secretary of State.


Political Cartoon is by Jeff Darcy at

Star-Telegram Endorses O'Rourke In Texas Senate Race

(This photo of Beto O'Rourke is from his campaign website.)

The two largest newspapers in Texas (The Dallas Morning News and the Houston Chronicle) have already endorsed Beto O'Rourke over incumbent Ted Cruz in the U.S. Senate race. Now the state's third largest newspapers joins them in supporting O'Rourke -- the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Here's what their editorial board had to say:

U.S. Rep. Beto O’Rourke and U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz represent the hard left and right of American politics.
Neither stands in the middle ground, where the real work is done to lead America.
But only O’Rourke seems interested in making deals or finding middle ground. That is why the El Paso Democrat would make the best senator for Tarrant County’s future, and the future of Texas.
O’Rourke’s “new way” campaign against politics-as-usual has drawn attention, and also money.
But much of what he says, particularly about immigration and healthcare, sounds like what Texas business conservatives used to say before the emergence of New York Republican Donald Trump.
U.S. Sen. John Cornyn says we shouldn’t deport Dreamer students over their parents’ mistakes. Former Gov. Rick Perry, now energy secretary, has said a border wall “doesn’t make sense.” President George W. Bush endorsed a path to legal status for those who came illegally but worked peacefully, supported the economy and showed good character.
These are the same Texas values that O’Rourke now defends.
Texas House Speaker Joe Straus wanted to beef up spending on public schools and find a “Texas solution” to improve healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act.
O’Rourke now champions both. 
Cruz and O’Rourke both support free trade, which is essential for success in Fort Worth and Texas. Our city is emerging as a leading global distribution center, and Mexico is Texas’ No. 1 trade partner.
But O’Rourke would have more room to oppose the president’s questionable trade and tariff decisions, which threaten Texas.
O’Rourke raised eyebrows here when he called for further review of the locally built Lockheed Martin Aeronautics F-35 fighter jet. But he also says the plane is essential to protect the U.S.’s air superiority, and said he will protect jobs.
This endorsement did not come without some disagreement. Cruz is closer to Texas’ and Tarrant County’s views on issues related to faith and values, and also on energy policy.
But Cruz was elected with no experience in any council or legislature, and it shows. His intransigence prevents him from currying support or negotiating deals to help Texas.
This Editorial Board has recommended conservative Republicans such as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney for president, along with U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Kay Bailey Hutchison.
But Cruz does not measure up. This office needs a reset.
The Star-Telegram Editorial Board endorses Beto O’Rourke for U.S. senator..

Read more here:
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A Scary Place

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at

How ?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

"There Is Simply No God"

Another Mass Shooting While Congress Does Nothing

(This photo of the Pittsburg mass shooting is from USA Today.)

America suffered another mass shooting on Saturday. This time it was in Pittsburg, where 46 year-old anti-semite Robert Bowers (armed with an AR-15 assault rifle and several handguns) shot 17 people (four police officers and 13 civilians) -- killing 11 of them.

Sadly, this is not an unusual occurrence in the United States. While most mass shootings (where at least 4 people are shot) do not make the national news, they happen on an almost daily basis. In the first 300 days of this year, there have been at least 294 mass shootings. That's 0.98 mass shootings per day -- or about 29.4 every month. This doesn't happen nearly as often in any other developed nation, and there is no rational reason why it should be happening here.

What is our government doing to stop (or at least reduce) these mass shootings? NOTHING!

Donald Trump is useless. He said after the shooting that we must stop the hate in this country -- completely ignoring the fact that he has increased that hate by his own actions and rhetoric. He has demonized groups that don't fit his white patriarchal mold, and encouraged racists, bigots, and white supremacists -- and doesn't seem to be interested in curbing his own hate speech.

Trump also suggested that the answer is more guns -- inferring that less people would have been killed if there had been guns inside the affected synagogue. That shows he doesn't understand the problem. There are too many guns already in this country (more than one in circulation for every person in the country). More guns is not the answer.

What is the reaction from the Republican-controlled Congress. Just useless "thoughts and prayers", and more nonsense about this not being the time to discuss doing something. They will do nothing because they have been bought and paid for by the gun manufacturers and their lobbying group (the NRA).

Our politicians whine about Second Amendment rights. But they ignore the things that could be done without violating the Second Amendment -- things like making gun laws stricter, banning assault-style weapons and huge ammo magazines, and closing the loopholes in our background check law. A majority of Americans support the first two, and an overwhelming majority supports the third (between 80% and 90%).

Action could be taken by Congress that, while it couldn't prevent all gun deaths, could significantly reduce those deaths.They won't act though, and that's why they should be voted out of power.

Explosive Device

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Voter Opinion Of Trump Is A Big Factor In The Election

Pundits have been debating for weeks about whether voter feelings about Donald Trump is a big factor in this election (even though he's not on the ballot). The results of this poll show that the approval/disapproval of Trump is important to how people will vote.

As the top chart shows, Trump is popular only among Republicans -- where 85% give him a positive approval rating. It's far different for other voters. He only has 39% approval from the general public, 35% from Independents, and 9% from Democrats.

Those are not good numbers, especially when you consider the second chart. It shows that 67% of voters say their opinion of Trump is a factor in how they'll vote, while only 31% say it is not. By comparison, in 2014 only 47% said their opinion of Obama was a factor, while 52% said it was not.

Trump is not helping Republican candidates this year, and that's because most Americans just don't like him.

The charts are from the newest NPR / PBS NewsHour / Marist Poll -- done between October 21st and 23rd of a national sample of 935 adults, with a margin of error of 3.9 points.

Lock Him Up

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at

Rising Costs Are A Serious Detriment To U.S. Health System

The two most egregious Problems with health care in the United States are the lack of insurance coverage for all citizens and the enormous growth of the cost of health care. Obamacare helped with the first problem (but did not completely solve it), but Republican efforts have actually started to make it worse. Neither Obamacare nor the Republicans have done anything to address the second problem (rising cost of health care).

The Josh Bivins of the Economic Policy Institute (EPI) has written an excellent article about the enormous and growing cost of health care in the United States, and some suggestions on how to control it. It is a lengthy article (but well worth your time), so I include only a part of it below.

Rapid growth in the cost of U.S. health care has put sustained downward pressure on wages and incomes. This rapid growth of spending has not purchased notably high-quality care, however. U.S. spending on health care is higher than in peer countries, while quality is lower. These high costs cannot be attributed to overuse of health care in America; instead, it is clear that the high price of health care is the culprit. Prices for pharmaceuticals, physician salaries, and medical procedures are almost uniformly higher in the U.S. than in peer countries—sometimes staggeringly so.
Why it matters: Rising premiums, out-of-pocket costs, and public health spending are crowding out income gains and spending on other goods and services. Meanwhile, our health care system ranks low on measures of equity and quality relative to peer countries. Recognizing the role of health care prices in driving health spending is crucial: Efforts to contain costs by controlling use are not only economically inefficient but also dangerous—leading to decreases in medically indicated and preventive care that would improve health outcomes for Americans and that is more cost efficient in the long run.

Key findings

  • Premium prices in the employer-sponsored insurance system have risen rapidly over the past two decades. The total cost of a family ESI plan rose from $5,791 to $18,142 between 1999 and 2016.6 As a share of average annual earnings for the bottom 90 percent of the workforce, these premium costs rose from 25.6 to 51.7 percent over that same period.
  • Fast premium growth did not purchase better protection from health care cost growth for workers. Out-of-pocket costs rose faster between 2006 and 2016 than total costs or costs paid by insurers did. Out-of-pocket costs rose 53.5 percent cumulatively over that time, while total costs rose 49.2 percent and costs paid by insurers rose 48.5 percent.
  • The rapid growth in health care costs has led to a rapid increase in total health spending as a share of GDP. This measure has risen from 5.2 percent of U.S. GDP in 1963 to 8.4 percent in 1979 to 17.4 percent in 2016.
  • Among industrialized nations, the U.S. has the highest health care costs and below average quality and utilization. When comparing the American health system with the health systems of advanced economy peer countries, American health care spending and prices are by far the highest, while utilization—the volume of health goods and services being consumed—and measures of quality are decidedly below average.
  • Policymakers need to focus on controlling prices, not utilization. The weight of the empirical evidence in this report indicates clearly that policies to “bend the health care cost curve” should focus on efforts to control prices, not use. The common root in strategies to contain prices in the health care sector is the need to bring countervailing market power to bear against monopoly-like pricing power currently wielded by health care providers.
  • Policy focusing on utilization leads to inefficiency. To date, most efforts to control use of health care services have been poorly tailored because they focus simply on “cost sharing”—or raising the cost of receiving health care across the board. Raising the marginal cost of health in this way does reduce utilization, but patients do not cut back only on low-value care. They also cut back on medically indicated care that could actually be cost-saving in the long run.
  • Meaningful policy to address pricing includes public negotiation of “all-payer rates.” The most straightforward way to provide countervailing force against the pricing power of health care providers, as well as to make health care prices informative to consumers, is more robust public negotiation of prices and the extension of this public-sector pricing power to all payers. For example, policymakers should strongly consider setting caps on rates as a tool to slow growth and provide greater transparency and accountability to consumers.
These findings underscore the depth of the challenges that remain to making our health care system more equitable and efficient. They also provide a clear series of steps that policymakers can take to improve this situation. These steps can be part of the groundwork for a more fundamental transformation of the American health system but would also ensure that the current pillar of this system—ESI—will remain strong as new reforms are made.
What can be done about it: Policymakers need to focus on controlling health care prices, not restricting use. While much attention has understandably focused on the ambitious vision of adopting a “single-payer” or “Medicare-for-all” plan, there are steps policymakers could adopt in the nearer term that would allow many of the virtues of single-payer to be realized more quickly and that could serve as useful stepping stones to even more ambitious reform:
  • Extend already existing public plans and incorporate a “public option” into ACA exchanges.
  • Adopt “all-payer rates”—mandating that the same prices apply regardless of who is paying—to allow private insurers to benefit from the bargaining power of Medicare.
  • Pursue policies that would diminish the intellectual property rights monopolies of key health care sectors, like pharmaceutical companies.
  • Increase antitrust scrutiny of consolidation of hospitals and physician networks.

Scare Tactics

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Kallaugher (KAL) in The Baltimore Sun.

"A Damnable False Hope"

Saturday, October 27, 2018

Trump's Purpose

Bomber Arrested (& As Expected Was A Trump Supporter)

 (The photos in this post are from NBC News. The top image shows the decals on the bomber's van. At left is a prior booking photo of the bomber (56 year-old Cesar Sayoc, Jr.)

The MAGA-bomber has been arrested. It turns out to be Cesar Sayoc, Jr. of Florida. He has a prior criminal record, but that is not why he sent the bombs. He did that because he was a Trump supporter (note the decals on his van), and evidently, was trying to please his favorite demagogue -- Donald Trump. He is a registered Republican.

In the last couple of days, right-wingers have floated conspiracy theories saying the bombs were sent by Democrats (or leftists) to defame Trump. That has now been exposed as a ridiculous lie.

Trump himself spoke after the arrest. He said the bomber would be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (even though he has nothing to do with how the bomber will be charged or prosecuted). He also called for unity among U.S. citizens -- completely ignoring his own efforts to divide the nation.

I wish I could say this is over, and Trump's critics are now safe -- but that is probably not the case. As long as Trump continues to demonize his political opponents, they will be in danger. Too many right-wing terrorists exist in this country -- people like Sayoc, who may try to please Trump with violent acts. And the next one may be more competent that this bomber was.

Trump has poisoned the politics in this country, and he has made the country a much more dangerous place.

(This graphic is from CNN.)

NOTE -- A 13th package has been found in Sacramento -- addressed to Senator Kamala Harris.