Sunday, July 31, 2022
The charts above are from the recent USA Today / Suffolk University Poll -- done between July 22nd and 25th of a nationwide sample of 1,000 registered voters, with a 3.1 point margin of error.
The following editorial is from the editorial board of The Washington Post:
Over the past week, a Florida jury has listened as medical examinerstestified in excruciating detail about the autopsies they performed on the 14 students and three staff members murdered in 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Jurors heard how bullets fired from the AR-15-style rifle hit the victims with such force that they caused extensive and devastating damage, while the weapon’s rapid fire action magnified the carnage. Alaina Petty, 14, was shot four times; Martin Duque Anguiano, 14, was shot eight times; Carmen Schentrup, 16, was shot five times; Meadow Pollack, 16, was shot nine times.
That gruesome account — and the pain of parents who sobbed or fled the courtroom — resonated as we listened to the indifferent testimony of executives of companies that market assault weapons such as the one used in the Parkland school slaughter. Appearing Wednesday before the House Committee on Oversight and Reform, leading manufacturers of assault weapons that have been used in the country’s deadliest mass shootings said they bear absolutely no responsibility for the violence.
“I believe that these murders are a local problem that have to be solved locally,” said Marty Daniel of Daniel Defense, which manufactured the AR-15-style rifle that an 18-year-old used in May to murder 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Tex. “I don’t consider what my company produces to be ‘weapons of war,’ ” said Christopher Killoy of Sturm, Ruger & Co., which produced the weapons used by mass shooters in Sutherland Springs, Tex., in 2017 and Boulder, Colo., in 2021.
There is no question, as the gun manufacturers argued, that the individuals who pull the trigger are culpable for their terrible crimes. The gunman in the Parkland shooting has pleaded guilty; the jury hearing the penalty phase of his trial will determine whether he is to be sentenced to death or to life in prison without parole. But gun companies can’t wash their hands of responsibility for the damage caused by their products — particularly when their marketing strategies are designed to appeal to angry, insecure, young males — the very demographic that is increasingly the profile of mass shooters. “Consider your man card reissued,” read one advertisement. Another: “Your status at the top of the testosterone food chain is now irrevocable.” To make it easier to obtain the weapons, the companies offer generous credit plans.
A report released by the House committee found that the country’s top five gun manufacturers have collected more than $1 billion in revenue over the past decade, much of it from the sales of assault-style weapons. At the same time, they have failed to take even basic steps to monitor the violence associated with their products. None of the companies have systems to track injuries and deaths caused by AR-15-style rifles, whether from accidental discharge, product malfunction or deliberate use. Nor do they monitor crimes committed with the products.
It’s no surprise that the gun manufacturers fail to collect data that might make their products safer. Congress has provided them unique protection from legal liability. As a consequence, there is no disincentive to their irresponsible business practices when it nets them record-breaking profits. One would have hoped that Petty, Anguiano, Schentrup, Pollack and the other children lost to gun violence might give the gun industry some pause. Since that is clearly not the case, it is up to Congress to crack down.
Saturday, July 30, 2022
The United States is basically a two party system -- currently the Democratic Party and the Republican Party. Other parties have been established (like the current Green and Libertarian Parties), but have not been able to effectively compete with the two major parties. The last new party that succeeded was the Republican Party, which replaced the Whig Party which was already dying.
Andrew Yang and Christine Todd Whitman -- a former Democrat and former Republican -- think it's time for a new party, and they think they can succeed where countless others have failed. They call their new organization the Forward Party, and they hope to tap into the large group of moderates in this country.
I think their party will be a spectacular failure. Jamelle Bouie does also. Here is part of what he wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times:
Friday, July 29, 2022
The chart above reflects the results of the newest USA Today / Suffolk University Poll -- done between July 22nd and 25th of a nationwide sample of 1,000 registered voters, with a 3.1 point margin of error.
There is no doubt that the United States has a problem with policing. Proposed solutions range from better training to defunding. But perhaps there is a better solution -- one that will work without putting anyone in danger or disrespecting the police. Perhaps the solution is as simple as creating a fairer economy -- one that allows everyone to share in the nation's wealth.
The following is part of a thought-provoking op-ed by Charles M. Blow in The New York Times:
In our society, those people are police officers. Their role, in the abstract, is essential. However, the way that we have constructed it is problematic.
We have created a civilization that is essentially unfair and unbalanced, and asked police officers to manage the negative behaviors that the imbalance produces and exacerbates. We want to oppress the little people — poor people, people without privileges — and have them peacefully accept it. We want to punish people from rebelling against the discomfort and disillusionment.
I am by no means saying that we should accept and excuse violent crime. I’m simply observing that there is far less violent crime among people who feel physically safe, financially comfortable, culturally appreciated and justifiably hopeful.
Thursday, July 28, 2022
The chart above is from mehlmancastagnetti.com. It use Gallup Poll numbers from 1977 and 2022.
It shows that trust in U.S. institutions has dropped drastically in the last 45 years (from 1977 to 2022).
Only one institution has gained in trust -- the military. It is also the only one with over 50% of Americans trusting it.
All of the other institutions have dropped sharply in the percentage trusting them -- even religion. None of them have more than 30% of the population trusting them, and some (like Congress) have a far worse trust percentage.
A couple of days ago, I showed you a poll that said 28% of Americans thought soon that citizens would need to take up arms against the government. I hope that never happens, but seeing the poor trust in U.S. institutions, I can understand how some might feel that way.
Most people don't trust that these institutions are acting in their best interests, and many don't think it will get better in the future.
We must fix this, and we can only do that by voting for people who will fix it.
Wednesday, July 27, 2022
This chart reflects the results of the University of Chicago Institute of Politics Poll -- done between May 19th and 23rd of a nationwide sample of 1,000 registered voters, with a 3.53 point margin of error. It shows that over a quarter of Americans think it may soon be necessary for citizens to take up arms against the U.S. government. That's a frightening percentage, and shows how much trouble our democracy is in.
Two things that make a huge difference in a country are wealth and human rights. The Republican Party has it backwards on both.
Republicans want you to believe that human rights is like a pie. They say that when one group earns a right they never had before, another group will lose some degree of that right. Of course, that is not now, and never has been true.
This lie is done by those who want to maintain the white patriarchy in this country. When minorities achieve a right that white men have always had, no one loses anything. It just means that rights are equally recognized under the law. White men don't have less rights when nonwhites and women get more rights.
What they have less of is white male privilege -- an unfair advantage that they never should have had.
Republicans also have it backwards on wealth. They want you to believe that when the rich get richer, it benefits everyone in society, because much of that increased wealth will "trickle down" to those on lower economic levels -- the middle class, working class, and the poor.
This has always been a lie also. Wealth is like a pie, because there is a finite amount of wealth in a country at any given time. When one group gets a larger percentage of that wealth, all other groups must share a smaller percentage.
Note the chart at the top of this page. It shows the percentage of wealth that certain groups have had in the United States between 1990 and 2019. Note that as wealth has grown for the top 10% (and especially the top 1%0, the percentage has shrunk for the bottom 90% (and especially the bottom 50%).
They want you to believe that as the wealth of a country grows, that new wealth benefits everyone. That also is not true. Thanks to the GOP laws benefitting the rich, they currently get almost all of that growth in wealth, while the rest of the country must share only a tiny percentage (and most see no growth at all in their wealth).
As long as the Republicans stay in power (or at least retain enough power to block any changes in economic policy), it will stay this way. The rich will get richer, while the bottom 90% does not (and actually loses ground when inflation is considered).
It does not have to be that way. Before the Republicans re-instituted their Trickle-Down Economic Theory about 1980, rising wealth was fairly equally shared among the sectors of U.S. society. As productivity rose, it benefitted everyone. It could be that way again. But fairer economic policies cannot be achieved while the GOP has veto power. They only care about the rich.
The same is true about human rights. Equal rights will not be achieved as long as Republicans have a veto power over them. In fact, they are currently engaged in trying to take rights away from many (like women, LGBT community, and nonwhite voters).
We could have a country where equality in rights and fairness in economics was a fact. But it will only happen when Republicans are voted out of power (and Democrats feet are held to the fire). We have the power to fix this, but only if we vote!
This op-ed is by Max Boot in The Washington Post:
Near the end of last week’s Jan. 6 House committee hearing, former deputy national security adviser Matthew Pottinger, a perpetually cheerful former Marine, said the attack on the Capitol “emboldened our enemies by helping give them ammunition to feed a narrative that our system of government doesn’t work, that the United States is in decline. China, the Putin regime in Russia, Tehran, they’re fond of pushing those kinds of narratives — and by the way, they’re wrong.”
But are they wrong? They certainly have been to date; the United States has been defying predictions of doom for more than two centuries. But, as the ads for mutual funds say, past performance is no guarantee of future results. We need to take seriously the possibility that the United States could become a failed democracy, if only to avert that dire fate. There’s a good reason that 85 percent of respondents in a recent surveysaid the country is headed in the wrong direction.
A lot of the gloom and doom is due, of course, to the high rate of inflation, which will subside in time. But there are more intractable problems, too, such as the persistence of racism and income inequality. That we have far more gun violence than other advanced democracies and yet can’t implement common-sense gun-safety regulations (such as a ban on military-style assault rifles and high-capacity magazines) is a damning indictment of our democracy. So, too, is our failure to do more to address climate change even as temperatures spike. When we do act, it often makes the situation worse, not better.
Unleashed by a right-wing Supreme Court, Republican legislatures around the country are repealing or restricting abortion rights. This is producing horror stories that I never thought I would see in the United States. A woman in Texas had to carry a dead fetus for two weeks because removing it would have required a procedure that is also used in abortions. A woman in Wisconsin bled for more than 10 days after an incomplete miscarriage because medical staff would not remove fetal tissue. A 10-year-old girl was raped in Ohio and had to travel to Indiana to get an abortion.
These are the kinds of human rights violations we would be protesting if they occurred in other countries. That they are happening in the United States is an ominous sign of what lies ahead, because other countries in recent years that have taken away abortion rights — Poland and Nicaragua — have also taken away political rights.
We already live in a “backsliding” democracy, where voting rights are being restricted and freedom is under siege. The most severe threat comes from an increasingly authoritarian Republican Party whose maximum leader is an unindicted and unrepentant coup plotter.
Despite the yeoman work of the Jan. 6 committee, former president Donald Trump remains the leading contender for the 2024 GOP nomination — and on the current trajectory he could defeat President Biden, whose unpopularity continues to plumb new depths. We need to be clear about what another Trump term would mean: It could be the death knell for our democracy.
Jonathan Swan of Axios has an alarming report on the preparations in Trump World for returning to power: “Sources close to the former president said that he will — as a matter of top priority – go after the national security apparatus, ‘clean house’ in the intelligence community and the State Department, target the ‘woke generals’ at the Defense Department, and remove the top layers of the Justice Department and FBI.”
One of the instruments of Trumpian purges would be Schedule F, a new category of federal employment that Trump created in 2020 (and Biden rescinded), which would have removed tens of thousands of federal employees from civil service protections. By reviving Schedule F, Trump could fire career officials and replace them with ultra-MAGA loyalists. “F” might as well stand for “fascism,” because that is what we will get if Trump were to appoint his most fanatical acolytes to the most powerful positions in government.
I wish I could say that such a scenario is implausible, but it is all too realistic. I used to be an optimist about America’s future. Not anymore. There’s a good reason that so many people I know are acquiring foreign passports and talking about moving somewhere else: The prognosis is grim.
As political scientist Brian Klaas just wrote in the Atlantic, given that the GOP has become “authoritarian to its core,” there are two main ways to save America: Either reform the Republican Party or ensure that it never wields power again. But a MAGA-fied GOP is likely to gain control of at least one chamber of Congress in the fall and could win complete power in 2024.
We seem to be sleepwalking to disaster. If we don’t wake up in time, we could lose our democracy. Just because we’ve avoided a breakdown in the past doesn’t mean we will stave it off in the future.
Tuesday, July 26, 2022
The minimum wage remains at $7.25 and hour, and while some states have raised it a bit, nearly half of the states have continued to keep the minimum wage at the $7.25 level -- and show no signs of raising it anytime soon.
It needs to be raised at the federal level, so it would apply to all states -- even the red states that don't seem to care about their workers.
How bad is the current minimum wage? It hasn't been raised since 2009. And while it would buy $7.25 worth of goods in 2009, it now will only buy $5.27 worth of goods. That's a drop of 27% in buying power in the last 13 years.
At $5.27 an hour, the minimum wage is truly a poverty wage. A minimum wage worker with a full-time job (40 hours a week) would only bring home enough weekly to buy about $210.80 worth of goods. The monthly wage would buy only about $843.20 worth of goods.
Could you live on $843.20 a month (before deductions)? No one can!
The minimum wage must be raised to a livable level -- at least $15.00 an hour. Anything less is a poverty wage. And it's not right to force a full-time worker to accept a poverty wage!
Sadly though, as long as the Republicans hold veto power in Congress, the minimum wage will not be raised. They must be voted out of power so low-wage workers (between 20% and 25% of the national work force) can make a living. The $15.00 wage is not going to make anyone rich (or even middle class), but it will allow them to buy the necessities they and their families need.
It will also help other workers by putting an upward pressure on all wages.
Our government doesn't hesitate to give more to the rich (the people who don't need it). It's time they helped workers -- the people who need a bit of help.
This chart reflects the results of a new AP-NORC Poll -- done between July 14th and 17th of a nationwide sample of 1,085 adults, with a 3.9 point margin of error. It shows that two-thirds of Americans want Supreme Court Justices to serve a specific number of years rather than the current lifetime appointment.
The following editorial is by the editorial board of The Washington Post:
Maybe the Secret Service is incompetent, or maybe there’s something even fouler afoot. Either way, the scandal over the disappearance of text messages around the Jan. 6 insurrection demands answers.
A strange story has unspooled this month about the apparent deletion of communications sent by agents around the time of the attack on the U.S. Capitol — and each new detail seems to lead us further from a resolution. The Department of Homeland Security’s Office of Inspector General says the Secret Service erased messages from Jan. 5 and 6, 2021, after it requested them; the Secret Service says the messages were permanently purged as part of an agencywide phone reset and replacement planned months earlier. The Secret Service is now under criminal investigation by the OIG. The OIG, in turn, is itself under investigation by the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency for undisclosed allegations of misconduct.
These events raise a mess of questions. Most important, how on earth did the Secret Service lose track of these texts? IT migrations are easy enough in 2022 that most small businesses can do them without a snag. It boggles the mind that a supposedly advanced cyber-actor like the Secret Service, required by law to preserve this sort of data, would fail to back up information as a matter of course. That the agency would lose information so obviously important to the historical record is even more perplexing. And why did DHS Inspector General Joseph Cuffari, an appointee of the previous administration, choose to alert Congress to the texts’ deletion only now, months after his office discovered they were gone? Finally, there’s the worry that the jurisdictional snarl created by the OIG’s investigation of the Secret Service will complicate efforts by the Jan. 6 House select committee to find answers of its own.
That the facts of this mysterious matter do eventually make their way to the public is essential. Congress was looking for these communications for a reason: The discussions among Secret Service agents before, during and after rioters stormed the chambers of Congress surely weren’t restricted to the radio conversations of which we heard snippets during Thursday night’s hearing. The real-time actions and reactions of those so close to President Donald Trump as he planned whether to go to the Capitol, and what to do there, can speak to his intentions and his state of mind — proving crucial to any possible case against him.
It’s encouraging that the DHS inspector general seems to want to get to the bottom of this matter now, at this bizarrely belated stage. But Congress, the Justice Department and anyone else paying attention should also keep watch, including over the watchdog.
Monday, July 25, 2022
The Pew Research Center did a survey of at least 1,000 adults in 18 developed nations. They found that a majority overall (and in most countries) say they have confidence in Vice President Kamala Harris to do the right thing about world affairs.