Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Making The World A Fit Place To Live


PRRI Poll Shows The Picture Of A Divided Country

These charts are from a Public Religion Research Institute Poll -- done between March 11th and 30th of a nationwide sample of 5,042 adults, with a 1.6 point margin of error. It shows the social groups of people in the United States. Generally, even though we live in a diverse nation, most people tend to socialize only with those in their own racial, religious, and political groups.

Today's Lesson

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

Has The Slumbering Electoral Giant Been Awakened?

The election pundits are still predicting a Republican victory in the 2022. But they may be wrong. The GOP positions on guns and abortion may finally awaken the electoral "sleeping giant". Here is how Robert Reich puts it:

Today, I want to ask: Can anything positive come from last week’s tragedy? Or the mass shooting ten days before, in Buffalo? Can anything positive come from the Supreme Court’s imminent decision to reverse Roe v. Wade?

Making your own decision about whether to have a child, and keeping any child you do have out of harm’s way, are surely two of the most basic of all human needs. Yet both are fiercely resisted — the first by evangelical Christians, the second by the gun lobby. And Republican lawmakers are in the pockets of both.

The American people are not at all evenly divided on these issues. According to nearly every poll, wide majorities (including many G.O.P. voters) support requiring universal background checks for would-be gun purchasers, and most support “red flag” laws, bans on high-capacity magazines, and bans on sales of assault weapons.

Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans wants to maintain access to abortions before the first trimester of pregnancy, which has been the rule since the Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade in 1973.   

What does it matter? Nothing will happen to restrict the sale of guns, or maintain access to abortions — or will it? 

In the wake of last week’s massacre of 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde, Texas, Congress is once again about to vote on gun control. Because of the filibuster, gun control proposals need 60 votes to pass the Senate -- requiring that 10 Republicans join the 50-person Democratic caucus to approve any legislation. Almost no one believes 10 Republican senators will come around, even after last week’s horror.  

Weeks ago, after the leak of a draft opinion in the case of Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, written by Samuel Alito and evidently joined by four other G.O.P.-appointed Justices -- which argues that no right to abortion can be found in the Constitution or read into the Fourteenth Amendment, and that, therefore, no such right exists –- Senate Democrats tried to codify a national right to abortion.  But on May 11, the Women’s Health Protection Act failed in the Senate, 49-51. That was short not only of a simple majority but, more importantly, of the super-majority of 60 votes required to overcome the inevitable filibuster. (Only the West Virginia Democrat Joe Manchin crossed party lines.)

Meanwhile, while steadfastly refusing all attempts to control guns and maintain access to abortion, Republican lawmakers at the federal and state levels remain opposed to government funding for child care, parental leave, sex education, and contraception, and for reproductive, maternal, neonatal and pediatric health services.

It takes a great deal to awaken the slumbering giant of America. Most voters do not belong to either major political party. In the typical midterm election, fewer than half who are eligible to cast a ballot do so. In most presidential elections, slightly more than a third do so. (The 2018 midterms, 53 percent of eligible voters went to the polls.) 

Yet every so often the slumbering giant awakens — and with a swoop of its huge arm at the ballot box puts an end to a growing disconnect between what voters want and what politicians do (or fail to do). It happened in 1932. It also happened in 2020, when about 158 million Americans voted -- 81 million for Joe Biden and 74 million for Donald Trump. (Even then, one-third of eligible voters, approximately 77 million Americans, failed to vote.) Midterm elections tend to be quieter affairs. In the 2014 midterms, only 20 percent of young people between the ages of 18 and 29 went to the polls, for example. But in the 2018 midterms, the giant stirred: 36 percent of young people voted — giving control of the House to the Democrats. 

The disconnection between the majority of Americans and Republican lawmakers on guns and abortion may well awaken the slumbering giant for this fall’s midterm elections.

Most pundits are convinced that the Democrats are doomed to lose the House and Senate in the upcoming midterms, as well as the presidency in 2024. They point to the fact that after fifteen months in office, Biden is polling badly, at around 40 per cent But the punditocracy is ignoring guns and abortion, and failing to see the stirrings of the great slumbering giant of the American people that these two issues are provoking. (The pundits also forget that at the same point in his presidency, Ronald Reagan was polling at around 40 percent. But as inflation declined, Reagan ran for re-election against Walter Mondale and won 49 states.)

If the slumbering giant does awaken — and I believe that to be more likely than not — a mobilization such as America has rarely seen will propel Democrats to even larger majorities in the House and Senate this coming November, and consign Republicans to a near permanent minority (as they already are on guns and abortion).   

A Different Memorial Day

 Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

We Can Change The World


Monday, May 30, 2022

We Remember


How Rich People Get Rich


How Americans Did On International Test

 The charts above illustrate how U.S. adults did on a test of international questions by the Pew Research Center. About 3,581 adults participated in the test between March 21st and 27th, and the results had a margin of error of 2.3 points.

GOP Protects What's Most Precious

Political Cartoon is by Ed Hall at Artizans.com.

Most Say NO To Overturning Griswold, Loving, Obergefell, & Roe Supreme Court Decisions

The chart above is from the 19th News / Momentative Poll -- done between May 9th and 16th of a nationwide sample of 8,723 adults, with a 1.5 point margin of error. 

Penis Substitute

Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

Four Gun Myths That Must Be Confronted And Discarded

The shooting of 19 elementary school children in Uvalde once again reveals the need for some reasonable and constitutional restrictions on guns. Republicans tell us that more guns means a safer country. But we have over 400 million guns in this country -- about 1.2 guns for every man, woman, and child in the country. But we are not safer. Instead, we are setting records of mass shootings and gun deaths. 

Something must change, but it will not change until we expose the myths responsible for the inaction on guns. Matthew Dowd tells us about four myths (lies) that must be exposed and discarded. Here is what he wrote:

Myth One: Only coastal elites want gun reform, because they don’t understand what it is like to own a gun and go hunting. And related to this myth is the (false) idea that gun owners don’t want reform. As a Texas gun owner who has also talked to many gun owners here, this myth is completely false. In poll after poll, nationally and at the state level, the vast majority of citizens want gun reform. This isn’t necessarily a blue or red state issue. In 2015, a Public Policy Polling survey found 83 percent of gun owners wanted universal background checks, and 72 percent of National Rifle Association members supported them as well. While the overall share of Americans who think gun laws need to be stricter has decreased recently, falling to 53 percent in 2021 according to Pew, there remains bipartisan support for various individual reform measures.

Myth Two: The gun violence problem exists because our country has become too secular and more morally lost. In looking at survey data from around the globe, the countries that are the most secular and don’t ascribe to idea that “a belief in God is necessary to be moral and have good values” are some of the safest when it comes to gun violence. More than three quarters of citizens in Spain, Netherlands, United Kingdom, Sweden and France feel that a belief in God is not necessary to being moral, more than 20 points higher than “unbelievers” America, and yet none of those countries are struggling with rampant gun violence.

Myth Three: It is the Second Amendment and gun ownership that ensures America is the most free country in the world. In the Cato Institute’s latest Human Freedom Index, America ranks 17th. Countries such as New Zealand, Canada, Switzerland, Denmark, Sweden and Germany all rank far higher than the U.S. on this freedom scale, yet each one has far lower rates of gun ownership. In fact, the study shows that America has fallen on the freedom index over the last decade — as the number of guns in the United States has grown dramatically.

Myth Four: Gun ownership keeps illegal gun violence down. America by far has the most guns per 100 residents in the world. In fact, we have double the guns of the next highest county, which is Yemen. America unsurprisingly also ranks second in total gun deaths in the world, behind only Brazil. If more guns equaled less gun violence, America would be the safest country. And you only have to turn on the news tonight to see that is not the case. Want more evidence of this fallacy? When looking at states across our nation, those with stricter gun laws have less gun violence, and those with weak gun laws have higher rates of gun violence.

In order to have a functioning democracy we must be able to come together for the common good. But to do that, we must start with a common set of facts. The majority of Americans do want gun reform, even if they do not all agree on what that reform should include. Instead of relying on mythology, let's base our debate on data.

Holding Their Loved Ones

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz at Pocho.com.

The Shame Of Texas (And National) Republicans


Sunday, May 29, 2022

The Epidemic Of Gun Violence Continues

Image is from the Gun Violence Archive.

Palestinians Seen More Favorably - Especially Among Young


These charts are from a survey done by the Pew Research Center -- done between March 7th and 13th of a nationwide sample of 10,441 adults, with a 1.5 point margin of error.


 Political Cartoon is by Clay Jones at claytoonz.com.

Even Republicans Support Background Check Fix


The charts above are from a Morning Consult Poll -- done on May 25th of a national sample of 1,920 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.

Thoughts And Prayers Are Not What's Needed

Political Cartoon is by Walt Handelsman in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

The U.S. Is Exporting Its Love of Guns (And Violence)

The following post is by Ja'han Jones at MSNBC.com: 

Successive weeks with mass casualty shootings are a reminder — and we hardly needed one — of the ways the United States’ fanatical gun culture drives violence domestically. 

But many Americans might not be aware that this fascination with guns is feeding violence in other countries, as well. As we feel the pain and anger over yet another massacre, it’s important to remember that this experience is one of our country’s top exports. 

Or put more literally: American-made guns are often at the center of gun violence in other countries, especially in the Western Hemisphere.

Last fall, The Trace published an article detailing “How U.S. Guns Drive Cartel Violence in Mexico,” which cited federal data showing at least 56,000 guns that were made or sold in the U.S. were used to commit crimes in Mexico from 2014 to 2018. Mexico, notably, has only one legal gun store. But as a report from the progressive Center for American Progress noted in 2018, “many of the same gaps and weaknesses in U.S. gun laws that contribute to illegal gun trafficking domestically likewise contribute to the illegal trafficking of guns from the United States to nearby nations.”

That means U.S. lawmakers who back lax policies, like the gun show loophole, are literally enabling gun-running that has led to a surge of violence and crime throughout the Western Hemisphere. Author Ioan Grillo took a look at the broad impact of U.S. guns making their way to foreign countries in his book “Blood Gun Money: How America Arms Gangs and Cartels.”

“Various causes drive people from their homes in Central America, including extreme poverty and drought linked to climate change,” Grillo wrote for The Guardian last year. “But violence is a major factor, with asylum claims by Central Americans often citing attacks by gun-toting criminals.” 

Around 179,000 American-made firearms were confiscated in Mexico and across Central America from 2007 to 2019, Grillo wrote.

The CAP report examined instances in the past decade when American-made guns accounted for around half of the crime guns recovered and traced in Belize, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Panama. In some Caribbean countries, the number has been astronomical at various points over the last decade, with American-made guns making up more than 95 percent of crime guns recovered and traced in countries like Haiti and the Bahamas. 

The fact that the U.S. is the driver of so much gun crime in our hemisphere makes it all the more cruel that conservatives take such a firm stance against immigration to the United States. Their infatuation with guns is surely leading to violence that forces people in other countries to flee.

The Choice

Political Cartoon is by Dave Whamond at Cagle.com.

A Poem By Amanda Gorman


Saturday, May 28, 2022

School Shootings In 2022


GOP Protecting Criminals' Gun Rights - Not Citizen Rights


The chart above is shocking, but true. The United States has more than three times the rate of child gun deaths than any other developed nation. And it's not just child deaths. We also have a much higher rate of gun deaths for adults.

The GOP and the NRA want you to believe it's a mental health problem. But the United States does not have a larger percentage of mentally ill people than any other nation. What we do have is more guns of all kinds floating around in our country. We have about 400 million guns for a population of only about 330 million. Put another way, that's an average of about 1.2 guns for every person (man, woman, or child).

We also have the loosest gun laws of any country. It is easy for anyone, even the most dangerous people, to get any gun they want and as much ammunition as they want -- and they can do it without being subjected to any kind of background check! Between 80% and 90% of the public wants this fixed. They want everyone who tries to buy a gun or is given a gun to have to pass a background check.

Why hasn't this simple (and constitutional) background check law been passed? Because Republicans in Congress kill the bill every time it comes up. They claim they are just trying to protect the Second Amendment right of Americans to buy or own a gun. That is a LIE!

Closing the loopholes on the current background check law would not prevent any honest and law-abiding citizens from buying or owning a gun. It would prevent convicted felons, terrorists, domestic abusers, and the dangerously mentally ill from buying a gun. And that's who the Republicans are protecting -- the dangerous people who should not own a gun, because they pose a danger to other people.

The Republicans are not protecting law-abiding citizens. They are protecting criminals, abusers, terrorists, and other dangerous people. And by protecting those people, they have created or encouraged the epidemic of gun violence in this country. 

Put bluntly, they have the blood of innocent people (many of them children) on their hands.

Bought And Paid For

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

U.S. Public Wants Police Reform (But Not Defunding)

These charts are from a survey by the Gallup Poll -- done between April 24th and May 7th of a nationwide sample of 12,096 adults, with a 2.5 point margin of error.

GOP Sees Truth As Greater Threat Than School Shootings

Political Cartoon is by Christopher Weyant in The Boston Globe.

Uvalde Shooter In School Over An Hour Before Confronted

The following post is by Hayes Brown at MSNBC.com: 

Every journalist knows how hard it can be to sort fact from fiction in a breaking news event. But the shifting story public safety officials have spun since Tuesday’s shooting at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, is a brutal reminder that the police can’t always be trusted as reliable narrators.

“They said they rushed in and all that. We didn’t see that,” Javier Cazares, whose 9-year-old daughter was killed Tuesday, told The New York Times. In a video that shows parents outside the school frustrated with the police’s inaction, a man can be heard saying: “They’re all in there. The cops aren’t doing s--- except standing outside. You know they’re little kids, right? Little kids, they don’t know how to defend themselves.”

Three days after a gunman killed 19 students and two teachers, it seems every new detail contradicts Tuesday’s initial statements from the Texas Department of Public Safety, or DPS. That’s especially the case for the department’s praise of the bravery and heroism of the officers who the public was told challenged the gunman even before he infiltrated the school.

To be clear, there's no reason any civilian should have an AR-15-style rifle, as the gunman did, nor should that level of firepower be what the average police officer should have to face on the job. The chaos of dealing with a shooting at an elementary school shouldn't be something any human being has to face, be they parents or police officers. It was the gunman’s actions, not the hesitant response from law enforcement, that killed those children and their teachers. But the more the initial story from the police is scrutinized, the more out of step it seems with both the expectations of the parents outside the school and the long-standing argument that these are the moments when police are most necessary.

DPS’s news conference Thursday only highlighted how many elements of the original story had changed in 48 hours. Early reports indicated that law enforcement confronted the gunman almost immediately after he crashed a car before he got to Robb Elementary School. Sgt. Erick Estrada told CNN on Tuesday that the shooter “was engaged by law enforcement” but that “unfortunately was able to enter the premises.” But Victor Escalon, DPS’s South Texas regional director, said Thursday there was no confrontation — the shooter walked into the school unobstructed, a whole 12 minutes after the crash.

Did the shooter and an armed school safety officer exchange gunfire outside the school? A spokesperson for DPS told The Washington Post on Tuesday that they did and that the school officer was wounded; the department also confirmed to NBC’s “TODAY” show on Thursday that the school safety officer was armed. But DPS Director Steve McCraw walked back the gunbattle detail Wednesday, and Escalon went further Thursday, telling reporters that there “was not an officer readily available, armed,” which sounds a lot like a hedge.

DPS initially tried to justify law enforcement’s inability to bring down the shooter quickly by saying he wore “body armor.” The next morning, the agency acknowledged that it wasn’t body armor but a tactical vest that could be fitted with ballistic protection. That’s a major difference.

Officials initially said that once the shooter was inside, he immediately barricaded himself inside a classroom and began shooting. McCraw said Wednesday that police pinned the shooterinside the classroom. The Associated Press also reported that Border Patrol agents who responded “had trouble breaching the classroom door and had to get a staff member to open the room with a key.”

All 21 victims were reportedly killed in the same classroom; that detail also shifted Thursday, as NBC News reported that Texas investigators say victims were found in four classrooms. This prompts a number of questions: Did the shooter lock himself inside a classroom, preventing the police from entering? Or did the police trap him inside with his victims after he'd fired in other classrooms?

It’s an important point to clarify given what one student told KENS-TV: “When the cops came, the cop said: 'Yell if you need help!' And one of the persons in my class said 'help.' The guy overheard and he came in and shot her. The cop barged into that classroom. The guy shot at the cop. And the cops started shooting.”

Outside the school, officers reportedly had their stun guns drawn and were busying themselves keeping parents from running inside the school after their children. Reportedly, almost an hour elapsed as police restrained parents before an off-duty Border Patrol officer killed the gunman. One of those parents, according to The New York Times, was Angel Garza, whose stepdaughter Amerie Jo was killed. CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s interview with Garza, a medical aide, went viral as Garza wondered how someone could shoot his baby. Meanwhile, there are reports that some officers went into the school during the attack to retrieve their own children, even as other desperate parents were being detained outside in handcuffs.

There are a lot of unanswered questions, none of which make DPS or the city of Uvalde look particularly good. The city of about 16,000 spends nearly 40 percent of its annual municipal budget on its police force, which includes a SWAT teamthat is supposed to mobilize in this sort of situation. The school district, which has its own police force, doubled its security budget in recent years. And yet the shooter still managed to kill almost two dozen people in an hour.

The official narrative framed the law enforcement officials who first showed up as heroes who prevented even more casualties. That’s unsurprising given the free rein police across the country generally have to present their version of events as irrefutable.

Police have a responsibility to provide the most accurate information possible to the public, but all too often they decide to promote themselves as heroes and put a positive spin on their actions.

Even after the horror this week is eventually pieced together in full, it will be well worth remembering how far the final version of history will have come from where it started — and how law enforcement spent time trying to portray its inaction as heroism.

The NRA/GOP Plan For Schools

Political Cartoon is by Dave Granlund at davegranlund.com.

Truth And News Don't Matter At Fox - Only Profits


Friday, May 27, 2022

Red States Have Highest Rate Of Child Firearm Deaths


Most Support Background Checks & Banning Assault Rifles

The charts above reflect the results of the new Politico / Morning Consult Poll -- done on May 25th of a national sample of 1,920 registered voters, with a 2 point margin of error.

The Issue Is Mental Health

Political Cartoon is by Drew Sheneman in the New Jersey Star-Ledger.

About 210,000 Workers Filed For Unemployment Last Week

The Labor Department released its weekly unemployment statistics on Thursday. It showed that about 210,000 workers filed for unemployment benefits in the week ending on May 21st. Here is the official Labor Department statement:

In the week ending May 21, the advance figure for seasonally adjusted initial claims was 210,000, a decrease of 8,000 from the previous week's unrevised level of 218,000. The 4-week moving average was 206,750, an increase of 7,250 from the previous week's unrevised average of 199,500.

Blood Trail

Political Cartoon is by Ed Hall at Artizans.com.

We Are Sacrificing Children On An Alter Of Guns

The United States has made a terrible choice -- that we are willing to sacrifice children to protect the right of criminals, the dangerously mentally ill, domestic abusers, and terrorists to have any kind of gun and ammunition they want. Republicans will tell you they are protecting the right of Americans to own a gun, but no one is trying to deny that right to honest and law-abiding citizens. The Republican intransigence only protects those who should not have a gun, and this just insures that more mass murders will happen (including those of children).

Alyssa Rosenberg discusses this sacrificial mentality in The Washington Post. Here is part of what she wrote:

On the surface, contemporary America seems very distant from the world of Greek tragedy or the Toltec capital of Tula in 950 A.D. But our societies have something in common. We all practice child sacrifice.

The latest young victims of the ritual slaughter our culture permits are the 19 children shot to death inside their school in Uvalde, Tex., on Tuesday.

The massacre brings the total number of children killed in school shootings since the 1999 Columbine attack to 185. That figure doesn’t account for all the other settings in which children have been the victims of mass gun violence. And it doesn’t include the 311,000 children who were injured in school shootings, witnessed their classmates and teachers being shot, or sought shelter in barricaded classrooms, bathrooms and closets.

Given the lack of action after these spasms of butchery, there is only one possible conclusion: We are willing to tolerate the murder of children. We accept events that will gravely wound the bodies and psyches of many others.

30 Pieces Of Silver

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbia Missourian.

The U.S. Is A Killing Field Created By Republicans

The following sad and thought-provoking op-ed is by Charles M. Blow in The New York Times

The Republican Party has turned America into a killing field.

Republicans have allowed guns to proliferate while weakening barriers to ownership, lowering the age at which one can purchase a weapon and eliminating laws governing how, when and where guns can be carried.

They have done this in part with help from conservatives on the Supreme Court who have upheld a corrupt and bastardized interpretation of the Second Amendment.

But Republicans have also done so by promoting fear and paranoia. They tell people that criminals are coming to menace you, immigrants are coming to menace you, a race war (or racial replacement) is coming to menace you and the government itself may one day come to menace you.

The only defense you have against the menace is to be armed.

If you buy into this line of thinking, owning a gun is not only logical but prudent. It’s like living in a flood plain and buying flood insurance. Of course you should do it.

The propaganda has been incredibly, insidiously persuasive. As Vox pointed out last year, “Americans make up less than 5 percent of the world’s population, yet they own roughly 45 percent of all the world’s privately held firearms,” according to 2018 data.

But once you accept the dogma that a personal arsenal is your last line of defense against an advancing threat, no amount of tragedy can persuade you to relinquish that idea, not even the slaughter of children and their teachers in their classrooms.

Even if you think that shootings like the one in Texas are horrendous, you see yourself and your interests as detached from them. You didn’t do the killing. Your guns are kept safe and secure, possibly even under lock and key. You are a responsible gun owner. The person who did the killing is a lunatic.

Republicans carry this logic in Congress. They offer thoughts and prayers but resist reforms. They offer the same asinine advice: To counter bad guys with guns, we need more good guys with guns. They seem to envision an old-school western in which gunmen square off and the ranger always kills the desperado.

They want to arm teachers, even though most don’t want to be armed. Personally, I can’t imagine any of my elementary-school teachers with a gun in the classroom trying to fend off a gunman. That’s not what they signed up for.

And so Republicans keep the country trapped in a state of intransigence, ricocheting from one tragedy to another. This is not normal, nor is it necessary and inevitable.

No other country has the level of American carnage, but no other country has American Republicans.

The mass shootings are only the tip of the iceberg.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 45,000 people died from gun-related episodes in 2020, the most recorded in this country and a 15 percent increase from the year before. Slightly more than half, 54 percent, were the result of suicide, and 43 percent were the result of homicide.

And still, we do nothing to restrict gun access, or more precisely, Republicans agree to no new restrictions. This is not a both-sides-equally issue. The lion’s share of the resistance to passing federal gun safety laws falls squarely on Republican shoulders. We have to call a fig a fig and a trough a trough.

Beginning to pass gun safety wouldn’t immediately end all gun violence in this country, but it could begin to lower the body count, to lessen the amount of blood flowing in the streets.

Republicans have no intention of helping in that regard. Too often, they seem to see the carnage as collateral — as if they could use the constancy and repetition of these killings to scuttle efforts to stop future killings. Some Republicans may even count on Americans getting used to inaction, getting inured to the killing of children, getting numb to the relentless taking of life and no taking of action.

So we go through the cycle yet again — the wailing of loved ones, the sadness of a country. We call the victims’ names and learn a little about their lives before they were cut down. Maybe this one liked ice cream or that one liked to dress up like a princess. We ask: If not now, when? If not for this, then for what? We listen to Democrats condemn and Republicans deflect.

And before we can fully mourn one massacre, another one happens. It was just over a week ago that a white supremacist terrorist gunned down 13 people in a Buffalo grocery store. In fact, according to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 611 mass shootings in the United States in 2020. That’s not only more than one a day; it’s approaching two a day. (The archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people were shot or killed, not including the shooter.)

There is no great mystery about why we are where we are in this country when it comes to gun violence. We shouldn’t — and must not — pretend that this issue is complicated. It’s not.

We are not addressing our insane gun culture and the havoc it is wreaking because the Republican Party refuses to cooperate. There is death all around us, but for too many Republicans, it is a sad inconvenience rather than impetus for action.