Friday, February 26, 2021
The House of Representatives has passed the Equality Act. This bill would give members of the LGBTQ community the same rights that other Americans have. It would prevent discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in areas such as employment, housing, education, public accommodation, credit, and jury service. Only three Republicans voted for the bill.
Most Republicans voted against it. They claimed it violated First Amendment rights (such as freedom of religion). Of course, that argument is ridiculous. No religion mandates the breaking of federal or state law, and if it does, then it's not the religion of love (as christians and other religions claim). Any religion that permits discriminating against others is a religion of hate -- not love.
The House passed this bill in 2019 also, but Mitch McConnell was the Majority Leader in the Senate at that time and he refused to allow the bill to be debated or voted on. He's no longer in charge in the Senate, but the bill may still have a tough time in that body. It will require 60 votes to overcome a Republican filibuster -- which means that 10 Republicans will have to support it.
It seems it should be a given to me that all Americans should enjoy the same rights under the Constitution. But Republicans (and the evangelicals that support them) don't agree. They feel they should have the right to force other people into following their own weird version of morality. But that's not freedom. And the primary goal of this nation is the freedom of its citizens -- all of them.
Bigotry is Un-American -- even if you claim its basis is religion.
The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that 730,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on February 20th. That's the lowest figure in more than two months, but it's still far too high. Before the pandemic was out of control the number was around 220,000 to 260,000. We still need to get control of the pandemic before we can fix our economy.
Here is the official statement from the Labor Department:
In the week ending February 20, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 730,000, a decrease of 111,000 from the previous week's revised level. The previous week's level was revised down by 20,000 from 861,000 to 841,000. The 4-week moving average was 807,750, a decrease of 20,500 from the previous week's revised average. The previous week's average was revised down by 5,000 from 833,250 to 828,250.
Here is how National Public Radio (NPR) is reporting this:
The cost of repairing damages from the attack on the U.S. Capitol and related security expenses have already topped $30 million and will keep rising, Architect of the Capitol J. Brett Blanton told lawmakers on Wednesday.
The events of Jan. 6, he said, were "difficult for the American people and extremely hard for all of us on campus to witness."
Blanton said that congressional appropriations committees have already approved a transfer request of $30 million to pay for expenses and extend a temporary perimeter fencing contract through March 31.
But more money will be needed, he added: "History teaches us that project costs for replacements and repairs beyond in-kind improvements across campus will be considerable and beyond the scope of the current budgetary environment."
The price tag will go even higher, Blanton told lawmakers on the House Appropriations Committee, if the fence and other security measures are needed beyond March.
In his prepared testimony, Blanton described how his employees tried to minimize the threat to the Capitol and lawmakers on Jan. 6, when thousands of former President Donald Trump's supporters breached security perimeters at the Capitol grounds. Many of them then engaged in a pitched battle with police and security personnel.
"[Architect of the Capitol]employees sheltered congressional staff in their shops to protect them from the roving mob," Blanton said, adding, "Other members of our team raced to the roof to reverse the airflows within the building to help clear the air of chemical irritants, like bear repellents and pepper spray, while more team members rushed bottles of water and eyewash stations to Capitol Police officers in need of assistance."
When the mob thronged the Capitol, the Architect of the Capitol's painters and artisans were laboring to complete the massive task of readying the campus to host a presidential inauguration.
"Over the course of a couple of hours, the hard work of our team was destroyed," Blanton said.
"The [inauguration] platform was wrecked. There was broken glass and other debris. Sound systems and photography equipment was damaged beyond repair or stolen. Two historic Olmsted lanterns were ripped from the ground, and the wet blue paint was tracked all over the historic stone balustrades and Capitol building hallways."
In the Capitol building complex, historical statues, murals and furniture were damaged, mainly from pepper spray accretions and residue from chemical irritants and fire extinguishers, requiring expert cleaning and conservation. Work crews covered gaping holes with plywood and cleared "a small mountain of debris left behind on the west and east fronts," Blanton said.
Blanton also said many lawmakers have asked his office about preserving mementos from the unprecedented violence wrought by U.S. citizens on their own Capitol. While most damaged items had to be removed because of safety concerns, he said his staff preserved the panels of the historical Columbus Doors on the east front "for a potential presentation or display."
Thursday, February 25, 2021
The Republicans are playing a dangerous game. They don't want to give President Biden what he wants -- the $1.9 trillion COVID relief bill. They seem to have decided that they will oppose everything President Biden tries to do, just like they did when President Obama was in office.
But this time things are different. There's a pandemic doing serious damage to the country. It has killed over a half-million people and damaged the economy (throwing millions out of work). While the Republican officials oppose the relief bill, the American people don't. In fact, a substantial majority of them support the bill -- 66% of adults and 65% of registered voters.
They are saying they don't think the voters will punish them in the 2022 election for opposing the relief bill. I think they are wrong -- especially if they are able to block the bill, or substantially reduce the bill's benefits. People have a long memory if you take money from their pockets, or cost them a job. And they won't forgive their family being hurt so the GOP can play politics.
The chart above reflects the results of a new Economist / YouGov Poll -- done between February 19th and 22nd of a national sample of 1,500 adults (including 1,201 registered voters). The margin of error for adults is 2.7 points, and for registered voters is 3 points.
The charts above are from the Gallup Poll. They show that the number of Americans willing to identify as members of the LGBT community is growing each year. In 2012, that number was only 3.5% of the population. By 2020, that had climbed to 5.6%.
This is not because more people are LGBT, but because more people are now willing to admit it as the community has achieved broad acceptance in the country.
And that is also exhibited by the fact that each generation has more willing to say they are LGBT than the previous generation. The most willing is Generation Z (born 1997 to 2002), where 15.9% say they are LGBT -- as compared to 9.1% of Millennials, 3.8% of Generation X, 2.0% of Baby Boomers, and 1.3% of the Silent Generation.
The area most claim is bisexual (54.6% of LGBT community). About 24.5% say they are gay, 11.7% claim to be lesbian, and 11.3% as transgender.
Wednesday, February 24, 2021
The charts above are from the Gallup Poll. The survey was done between February 3rd and 18th of a national sample of 1,021 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.
It shows that the public's approval of Congress is currently 35%. That's higher than it's been since 2009. The rise is approval is due to Democrats and Independents having a higher opinion of Congress. For Independents, the approval has risen by 17 points since December -- from 16% to 33%. For Democrats, the approval has risen by 50 points since December -- from 11% to 61%.
Only Republicans have congressional approval that has gone down -- from 18% in December to 8% currently.
The charts above reflect what the Pew Research Center found in a survey of who watches certain media site.
It turns out, according to the survey, about 25% of Republicans tune in only to right-wing media outlets (like Fox News or talk radio). And about 25% of Democrats tune only to left wing media outlets (like MSNBC, CNN, and The Washington Post).
This 25% (in both parties) are the more hardcore party members -- those activists who do most of the work for the parties.
But there's a big difference between the parties when you look at the ages of these two 25% groups. The Republican group is made up of mostly older people, while the Democratic group is mostly younger people. About 79% of Republicans were over the age of 50, while only about 22% were under 50. About 40% of Democrats were over 50, while about 60% were under 50.
In general, those numbers are better for the Democrats than the Republicans.
The chart above is from the Axios / Ipsos Poll -- done between February 19th and 22nd of a national sample of 1,029 adults, with a 3.3 point margin of error.
It shows the percentage of Americans who think the federal response to COVID-19 is getting better. In October, that percentage was only 26%. It is currently about 45%. Democrats and Independents also have a higher percentage now than back in October. Only Republicans think the process has gotten worse. Evidently, they liked Trump's ignoring of the pandemic.
That would be a huge misnomer. His most loyal followers (those who would immediately join a new Trump party) are those people who believe President Biden was not legitimately elected, who wanted to overturn the votes of American citizens to keep Trump in office, and who participated in or try to justify the attack on our Capitol.
They are NOT patriots. Their actions show them to be closer to traitors -- people who do not believe in our democracy, and would overturn it.
But there is a party for patriots, and it already exists. It is called the Democratic Party!
Here is part of an excellent article in The Hill, written by Jessica Tarlov:
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the definition of a patriot is “one who loves and supports his or her country.” It’s vague, for sure. What defines love and support? And especially in these trying times, how much significance should be placed on how that love and support manifests itself?
Considering the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6, a lot of significance is the right answer.
Since it’s the stuff of fantasy to think partisans can agree upon a definition of “love and support,” I submit that the answer actually lies in public sentiment. For a term that is so malleable naturally, it’s logical that what constitutes loving and supporting the country would be up to the people. Through elections, the citizenry directs political decision-making. Their views are what informs campaigns and government decisions.
It follows that making good policy that appeals to the widest swath of Americans is a patriotic act. And by that definition, the Democrats are today’s Patriot Party. It’s not even close.
A survey of key Democratic positions makes the case.
President Biden gets high marks in his first month in office. His approvalstands at 54 percent in the RealClearPolitics average and his signature $1.9 trillion COVID-19 stimulus proposal is favored by 83 percent of Americans. That includes majorities of Democrats, Republicans and independents. Nearly two-thirds of Americans think Biden is doing a good job handling the coronavirus outbreak. When it comes to the vaccine itself, though 60 percent think the rollout has been too slow, 73 percent believe the process has been fair, including majorities of minority and low-income Americans.
Combatting COVID-19 has become the dominant health care discussion, but it is important to highlight that support for ObamaCare has been growing since Biden took office. The latest Kaiser Family Foundation poll finds 55 percent support, the highest rating for the law since it was signed a decade ago. Twenty million Americans have coverage because of the Affordable Care Act and the Biden White House just extended the health insurance enrollment period to give more Americans access to quality, affordable care.
“We’re back.” Those were President Biden’s words last week about his decision to reenter the Paris climate agreement. World leaders breathed a sigh of relief that the U.S. no longer would sideline climate matters, but they weren’t the only ones. Americans are relieved, too. Nearly three in five support the move. Two-thirds want the federal government to do more to combat climate change and, crucially, 60 percent see climate change as a “major” threat, compared to just 44 percent a decade ago. The same can be said of Biden’s decision to rejoin the World Health Organization.
There’s unanimous agreement that a federal minimum wage of $7.25 isn’t enough. Eighty-three percent of Americans say minimum wage earners need a raise, with 35 percent supporting $13 to $15 an hour, 29 percent at $10 to $12 and just 13 percent for over $15 an hour. We have yet to see if a hike in wage will make it into the COVID-19 package, and whether it will stay at the $15 level that progressives champion — but the GOP position that the federal minimum wage doesn’t need an increase is wildly out of step with Americans.
When it comes to immigration, Biden’s policies are aligned with public sentiment. Sixty-five percent support restarting the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, 53 percent want to stop wall construction at the southern border, 52 percent want an end to the ban on travel from some majority-Muslim countries, and 56 percent want noncitizens included in the U.S. census. Further, nearly 70 percent favor a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants and 64 percent support stimulus checks for households with mixed immigration status.
I have long bemoaned the fact that Republicans have successfully portrayed themselves as the party of service and love of country with bunk arguments over kneeling during the National Anthem and the number of flags on stage at an event. There is an evergreen opportunity for Democrats to talk about their service, which they have done more of since the attack on the Capitol.
But there is an even bigger opportunity to make noise about our patriotism from a policy point of view. It doesn’t matter if you stand for the anthem if your agenda hurts Americans’ chances of succeeding. That’s especially true as we face unprecedented challenges.
The Democratic Party is the Patriot Party. Time to own it and embarrass any Republican, especially Trump, who tries to claim the mantle.
Tuesday, February 23, 2021
The chart above is from the Gallup Poll -- done between February 3rd and 18th of a national sample of 1,021 adults, with a 4 point margin of error.
It shows President Biden with an overall job approval of 56% -- with 67% approving of his coronavirus response, 56% approving of his handling of foreign affairs, and 54% approving of his handling of the economy.
The charts above reflect the results of a new Suffolk University / USA Today Poll -- done between February 15th and 19th of a national sample of 1000 Trump voters, with a 3.1 point margin of error.
When the District Attorney issued a subpoena for 8 years of Trump's taxes, Trump claimed that he was immune to subpoenas because he was president. That worked its way to the Supreme Court, where it was ruled that he was NOT immune.
Trump then claimed the subpoena was too broad and should be denied by a court. Lower courts ruled that was not the case, and it once again went to the Supreme Court.
On Monday, the Supreme Court, in a one-line opinion without any dissent, said it would not take the case. That allowed lower court rulings to stay in place, and now Trump's taxes must be turned over to the Grand Jury.
This does not immediately make those returns public, because Grand Jury proceedings are secret by law. But if charges are filed for Tax or insurance evasion, the returns would likely be used as evidence in court -- and that would make the returns public knowledge.
Trump gambled he would be able to keep his tax returns a secret, and even appointed Supreme Court justices that he hoped would back him on that. He lost that gamble.
The electric grid failure in Texas was a disaster for millions of Texans. That didn't matter to Fox News. They decided to use the disaster to push their own political agenda, and to do they they lied about the cause of the disaster. They said it was caused by the green energy proposal (even though none of that proposal has been instituted in Texas) and the use of renewable energy sources (such as wind energy). They failed to mention that the Texas windmills were not weatherized (as they are in other states), and that is why they froze.
Here is some of what PolitiFact had to say about the Fox News lies:
Fox News and other cable networks are spinning a false narrative that says frozen wind turbines, solar panels and even, somehow, the Green New Deal are to blame for Texas’ crippled energy system, according to a PunditFact review of closed caption information.
It’s true that about half of Texas’ wind power capacity was shut down early in the week as some turbine blades froze over thanks to a rare blast of Arctic air.
The Green New Deal hasn’t passed in Texas or elsewhere, and it wouldn’t be binding if it did.
But that’s not the story Fox News personalities are telling. There, hosts have pinned the blame solely or mostly on the frozen wind turbines. They have told viewers that Texans are feeling the sting of green energy policies in a state run for decades by Republicans.
Some of the most widespread and erroneous claims came from Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose primetime show is among the most-watched cable news programs.
"Unbeknownst to most people, the Green New Deal came to Texas, the power grid in the state became totally reliant on windmills," Carlson said Feb. 16. "Then it got cold, and the windmills broke, because that’s what happens in the Green New Deal."
PolitiFact rated the claim Pants on Fire. But Carlson wasn’t alone.
Between Feb. 15 and Feb. 16 alone, windmills or wind turbines were mentioned more than 100 times on Fox News’ and Fox Business Network’s programs, according to TVEyes, a media monitoring service. The Green New Deal was mentioned more than 25 times.
To a lesser extent, the same terms cropped up repeatedly on Newsmax TV and One America News Network, two newer stations competing for the same audience. . . .
In reality, experts said the primary problem was that Texas’ thermal power plants, which make up a larger share of the state’s energy supply, were not built to withstand the cold. The plants began to go offline just as freezing temperatures boosted the demand for heating, prompting the Electric Reliability Council of Texas to impose rolling blackouts.
"To think that there’s anything wrong with renewables is entirely a red herring," said Sam Newell, an electricity expert at the Brattle Group, which has analyzed Texas’ power grid.
Monday, February 22, 2021
HEB owns 340 grocery stores, most of them located in the state of Texas. They advertise themselves as being a good neighbor to Texans. During the winter crisis last week, one of those stores got a chance to prove that.
Let me preface this post by saying, HEB groceries have done their best to help its customers during the pandemic. They gave their employees a raise to stay on the job, and they have required both customers and employees to wear mask. They have also installed plexiglass shields to keep employees and customers from infecting each other.
When freezing weather, accompanied by lots of snow and ice, struck the state, they stayed open to make sure their customers had groceries to survive during the disaster. But one of their stores had to go above and beyond for their customers
Last Tuesday, there were a couple of hundred customers in the Leander store trying to get groceries to survive the horrible weather. Leander is a suburb just northwest of Austin. As the customers were filling their carts, the unthinkable happened. The electricity went off, leaving them in the dark.
It also meant that the store's cash registers, scanners, and credit/debit machines would not work (since they require electricity. What were they to do?
They could have just told those customers they couldn't buy any groceries since the electricity was off. But they understood that these people, who had come out in freezing conditions with ice and snow, needed those groceries.
So the store made a decision. They let all of those customers take the groceries home without paying for them. This cost the store some money, but it also proved they were a good neighbor that cared about their customers.
Those customers got online and told their friends what the store had done, and word of it spread like wildfire. It even reached the folks at The Washington Post -- and they wrote an article about the stores generosity and caring.
The store did it to help their customers out of a very bad situation. But it turns out, they got some nice public relations out of their generous gesture. You couldn't buy better public relations from a national newspaper!
NOTE -- In the interest of full disclosure, I need to tell you I have been a customer of HEB since moving to the Austin area. The store in Leander is not where I shop, but it's only a few miles from where I live.