Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Home-Grown Terror

The Media Has Misled The Public About Crime In U.S.

This chart was made from information in a recent YouGov Poll -- taken between September 9th and 12th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points. It shows something that has become commonplace in recent years. People believe that crime is increasing, and has significantly increased over the last 20 years.

The truth is that over the last 20 years crime has decreased in this country -- not just a little bit, but by a lot (by more than 200 crimes per 100,000 people). Why would people believe the opposite of what is true? We must lay the blame at the feet of the media -- both the local and national media. They still follow the old axiom of "If it bleeds, it leads", and that gives the impression that crime is rampant and is increasing.

I wish I knew how to fix this, but I don't. The media will tell you that they are just reporting the news that people want to hear about -- and there is a lot of truth in that. Too many people don't want to hear good news (and consider it boring). And the crime stories do need to be reported.

However, I do think the media could do a better job of getting out the message that crime is going down -- not up. This is information the public needs to have.

Re-Hire ?

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

Reasons To Vote For Democrats In November

This caricature (by the inimitable DonkeyHotey) is of Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Florida). She is the chairwoman of the Democratic National Committee. She has listed five reasons for voters to vote for Democrats this November. They are:

1. We’re trying to overturn Citizens United.
2. We’re fighting the Koch brothers.
3. We’re refusing to end Medicare as we know it.
4. We’re refusing to privatize Social Security.
5. We’re defending a woman’s right to choose.

Those are some pretty good reason for voting Democratic -- but I would add four more:

6. We are trying to raise the minimum wage to a livable wage (about $10.10 an hour).
7. We are trying to eliminate the tax break corporations get for exporting American jobs to other countries.
8. We are trying to pass a constitutional amendment that would overturn the terrible Supreme Court decision in Citizens United vs. FEC.
9. We are trying to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure -- which would create many badly needed jobs.

I've heard people say there is no difference between Democrats and Republicans -- and while I wish Democrats were more liberal, it is just not true that there is no difference between the two major parties. The Democrats are trying to help ordinary Americans, while the Republicans just want to protect their corporate masters.

Think before you vote this November -- and vote to end congressional gridlock by kicking the Republicans out of power.

New Box (Of Unintended Consequences)

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

The American Public's View On Corporal Punishment

Several days ago, the police in Montgomery County (Texas) arrested Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, and charged him with Injury To A Child. The pictures above show the results of the "spanking" he gave his 4 year-old child (and these pictures were taken a few days after the incident). He admits to using a switch to discipline the child.

In my opinion, this is inexcusable behavior -- and Peterson should be severely disciplined himself. Unfortunately, this kind of thing still happens far too often in this country. While I deplore Peterson's action, I am glad this has become so public -- because we need to have a discussion on what is proper in disciplining a child.

This did make me wonder just what most Americans think about corporal punishment for children. And the folks at the YouGov Poll did a survey to answer that question. Their survey was done between September 15th and 17th of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, and has a margin of error of 4.1 points. Without further comment, I give you the results of that survey in the charts below:

Family Van

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

The Green Party Is Really Different Than The Major Parties

Greens vs. Democrats & Republicans – The Real Difference

Support full access to abortion, with funding, for all women in the U.S. and around the world.Republicans: Oppose abortion
Democrats: Support abortion rights. Sometimes.
Bail out the peopleRepublicans: No Bailouts
Democrats: Bail out the banks
Jail for BankstersRepublicans: Reject
Democrats: Will Not Act
Refuse to accept corporate contributions. Demand an end to special rights for corporations & an end to big money electionsRepublicans & Democrats: Accepts donations from corporations, including defense contractors, oil companies, insurance and drug firms, etc. Republican officials indicted or under investigation of bribery, perjury, etc.
Oppose Corporations as PersonsRepublicans: Support
Democrats: Support
Refuse Corporate Campaign ContributionsRepublicans: Support with open hands
Democrats: Support with open hands
Support labeling of genetically modified organismRepublicans: Oppose
Democrats: Thinking, Thinking ...
Oppose the death penalty citing racial bias, failure to deter crime, widespread errors, and humanitarian objections.Republicans: Overwhelmingly support it
Democrats: Lukewarm support for it
Support electoral reform including Instant Runoff Voting and public financing of elections. Open debates.Republicans & Democrats: Works for us, why change anything
Oppose Keystone XL PipelineRepublicans: Support
Democrats: Lukewarm opposition
Reduce emissions NOW
Convert to renewable energy sources such as low-cost wind and solar power.
Republicans: Bush withdrew the U.S. from the Kyoto Treaty to reduce greenhouse gases and fossil fuel use (oil, coal). Wants to lower emissions standards to try to reduce gas prices.
Democrats: Willing to weaken emissions standards to lower gas prices. Promotes subsidies to corporate agriculture as a way to reduce petroleum consumption.
Oppose Drone Warfare & AssassinationsRepublicans: Support
Democrats: Support
Oppose Israeli takeover of PalestineRepublicans: Support
Democrats: Support
Reduce the military budgetRepublicans: Increase the budget
Democrats: Increase the budget
Fully support the Social Security systemRepublicans: Cut it to the bone
Democrats: Will accept cuts
Support a Jubilee for Student DebtRepublicans: Oppose
Democrats: Oppose
Support a living wage and the right to organizeRepublicans: Oppose
Democrats: Weak support
Demand real universal health care: Single-payer national health insurance, with guaranteed treatment and medicine regardless of age, ability to pay, employment, prior medical condition, including choice of doctors and hospitals.Republicans: Oppose guaranteed universal health care; Support health policy based on corporate profits for insurance, HMO, and drug companies instead of human need.
Democrats: Support health policy based on corporate profits; Deleted plans for universal health care from the Democratic platform.


Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

America's Original Sin

Monday, September 22, 2014

Over 300,000 Turn Out For Climate Change March

Photo is from Mother Jones website. (NOTE -- The estimate of the turnout has now been revised to more than 400,000.)

Land Of The Free ?

The U.S. Public Supports The Start Of A New War

The top chart above (from a Pew Research Center survey done between September 11th and 14th of a random national sample of 1,003 adults, with a 3.6 point margin of error) shows that the American people clearly support President Obama's plan to go back to war in Iraq (and Syria). It is supported by a 53% majority of the general public -- and when the public is broken down demographically, we can see that every group shows more support than opposition (although the support is less than 50% in some groups like women, young people, those with a high school education or less, and Independents).

I admit that this support for a new war mystifies me. The reason given for the military action by members of both parties in Congress is because ISIS poses a threat to the United States. Since ISIS poses no military threat to this country, I have to believe they are talking about a terrorist threat. If so, then support for the new war makes even less sense. Note in the bottom chart above that a majority of the public (and of every demographic group) says the military action will either increase the threat of terrorism or have no effect on it at all. Why then do they support the new march to war?

It becomes even more mystifying when you note the chart below -- from a Rasmussen Poll done on September 17th and 18th of a random national sample of 1,000 likely voters, with a margin of error of 3 points. A majority (55%) of the public believes that the American military is already overstretched. Why would they then support a new conflict in the Middle East -- when we have learned from recent conflicts that it will assuredly be a prolonged conflict that will further stretch U.S. military resources?

Have Americans gotten so used to endless war that we now think it is the way things are supposed to be? Have we become so frightened by our politicians (who just want to be re-elected) that we will support a war even when we don't think it will do any good? Or do we still think it is our duty to be the world's policeman?

Determining Mid-East Policy

Political Cartoon is by Mike Keefe at intoon.com.

Do The Issues Really Matter In This Election ?

The chart above is made from a recent Pew Research Center survey. That survey was done between September 2nd and 9th of a random national sample of 2,002 adults, and has a margin of error of 2.5 points. It shows the issues that are important to Republican and Democratic voters.

In a normal election year, this chart would be very important, and could give the politicians a guide as to how to conduct their campaigns. But this is not a normal election year. This is a year in which the voters are very angry with Congress -- angry that they didn't even try to compromise to get the economy moving again and create jobs. The folks on Main Street are still hurting, and haven't recovered from the recession -- and they are not happy at all that Congress has ignored that to play ideological games (especially the Republicans).

There are some safe seats for both parties, and the incumbents in those seats will be sent back to Congress. But there are also a lot of competitive seats, and the voter anger has resulted in a definite anti-incumbent mood. The incumbents in those competitive seats are all in danger, and the voters (especially the Independents) could send a lot of new representatives to Congress this year.

This is a year in which the anti-incumbent mood is more important than the parties stands on the issues. The voters want a Congress that will get something accomplished.


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

Business Schools Must Do Better At Teaching Responsibility

There was a time in this country when corporations were expected to have a duty toward their workers and their community and country. That seems to have disappeared, and been replaced with a much more narrow view of corporate responsibility -- that a corporation has only one duty, which is to maximize profits. This new view gives them permission to hog all productivity and keep wages abnormally low for workers, to poison the air and water in the community, and to avoid the taxes they owe -- and it is contributing to the decline of this country and its economy.

Former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich (pictured) believes this new attitude starts in our business schools, and that those schools are failing to properly teach corporate responsibility. He says even our most prestigious universities (like Harvard University) are guilty of this, and he has issued a call for all business schools to examine what they are teaching and do a better job of producing business leaders who know they owe a debt to their workers, their community, and their country. While these schools are not wholly to blame, they could be instrumental in helping to solve the problem.

Here is how he puts it in an article he wrote for the Harvard Business Review's Blog:

No institution is more responsible for educating the CEOs of American corporations than Harvard Business School – inculcating in them a set of ideas and principles that have resulted in a pay gap between CEOs and ordinary workers that’s gone from 20-to-1 fifty years ago to almost 300-to-1 today.

survey, released on September 6, of 1,947 Harvard Business School alumni showed them far more hopeful about the future competitiveness of American firms than about the future of American workers.

As the authors of the survey conclude, such a divergence is unsustainable. Without a large and growing middle class, Americans won’t have the purchasing power to keep U.S. corporations profitable, and global demand won’t fill the gap. Moreover, the widening gap eventually will lead to political and social instability. As the authors put it, “any leader with a long view understands that business has a profound stake in the prosperity of the average American.”

Unfortunately, the authors neglected to include a discussion about how Harvard Business School should change what it teaches future CEOs with regard to this “profound stake.” HBS has made some changes over the years in response to earlier crises, but has not gone nearly far enough with courses that critically examine the goals of the modern corporation and the role that top executives play in achieving them.

A half-century ago, CEOs typically managed companies for the benefit of all their stakeholders – not just shareholders, but also their employees, communities, and the nation as a whole.

“The job of management,” proclaimed Frank Abrams, chairman of Standard Oil of New Jersey, in a 1951 address, “is to maintain an equitable and working balance among the claims of the various directly affected interest groups … stockholders, employees, customers, and the public at large. Business managers are gaining professional status partly because they see in their work the basic responsibilities [to the public] that other professional men have long recognized as theirs.” 

This view was a common view among chief executives of the time. Fortune magazine urged CEOs to become “industrial statesmen.” And to a large extent, that’s what they became. 

For thirty years after World War II, as American corporations prospered, so did the American middle class. Wages rose and benefits increased. American companies and American citizens achieved a virtuous cycle of higher profits accompanied by more and better jobs.

But starting in the late 1970s, a new vision of the corporation and the role of CEOs emerged – prodded by corporate “raiders,” hostile takeovers, junk bonds, and leveraged buyouts. Shareholders began to predominate over other stakeholders. And CEOs began to view their primary role as driving up share prices. To do this, they had to cut costs – especially payrolls, which constituted their largest expense.

Corporate statesmen were replaced by something more like corporate butchers, with their nearly exclusive focus being to “cut out the fat” and “cut to the bone.”

In consequence, the compensation packages of CEOs and other top executives soared, as did share prices. But ordinary workers lost jobs and wages, and many communities were abandoned. Almost all the gains from growth went to the top.

The results were touted as being “efficient,” because resources were theoretically shifted to “higher and better uses,” to use the dry language of economics.

But the human costs of this transformation have been substantial, and the efficiency benefits have not been widely shared. Most workers today are no better off than they were thirty years ago, adjusted for inflation. Most are less economically secure.

So it would seem worthwhile for the faculty and students of Harvard Business School, as well as those at every other major business school in America, to assess this transformation, and ask whether maximizing shareholder value – a convenient goal now that so many CEOs are paid with stock options – continues to be the proper goal for the modern corporation.

Can an enterprise be truly successful in a society becoming ever more divided between a few highly successful people at the top and a far larger number who are not thriving?

For years, some of the nation’s most talented young people have flocked to Harvard Business School and other elite graduate schools of business in order to take up positions at the top rungs of American corporations, or on Wall Street, or management consulting.

Their educations represent a substantial social investment; and their intellectual and creative capacities, a precious national and global resource.

But given that so few in our society – or even in other advanced nations – have shared in the benefits of what our largest corporations and Wall Street entities have achieved, it must be asked whether the social return on such an investment has been worth it, and whether these graduates are making the most of their capacities in terms of their potential for improving human well-being.

These questions also merit careful examination at Harvard and other elite universities. If the answer is not a resounding yes, perhaps we should ask whether these investments and talents should be directed toward “higher and better” uses.

Meter Maid

Political Cartoon is by Lalo Alcaraz and was found on his Facebook page.

Economics 101

Sunday, September 21, 2014


This Makes Sense

Conservatives And Liberals Teach Some Different Values

This information is from a Pew Research Center survey done between April 29th and May 27th of this year of a random national sample of 3,243 adults, and has a margin of error of 2.3 points.

It lists 12 general values, and the percentages of conservatives and liberals who think it is important to teach those values to their children. Note that many more conservatives think it is important to teach religious faith (81% to 26%) and obedience (67% to 35%), while significantly more liberals think it is important to teach tolerance (88% to 41%), empathy for others (86% to 55%), curiosity (82% to 57%), creativity (85% to 63%), and helping others (90% to 77%). The other five values (responsibility, hard work, well-mannered, independence, and persistence) are all pretty close.

The survey also compared the teaching of these values by gender, race, education, and age group -- but they didn't show as big a difference as political ideology did. You can go to their website to view those comparisons.

Not Happening

Political Cartoon is by Tom Toles in The Washington Post.

Air Force Now Says "God" Can Be Omitted From The Oath

Last Sunday I posted about the  U.S. Air Force refusing to let an airman re-enlist because he refused to include the words"So Help Me God" in his military oath. The Air Force had allowed those joining or re-enlisting to omit the words in the past, but changed that last October. They said those words must be in the oath, and claimed they were just coming into compliance with federal rules.

Of course their action violated an article of the Constitution saying no religious test could be required as a "qualification for any office or public trust", and also violated the freedom of religion portion of the First Amendment (which also guarantees the right to be free from religion). The American Humanist Association (AHA) wrote the Air Force on behalf of the atheist airman, and threatened to sue unless he was allowed to omit the four offensive words.

Now, only a week later, there is good news to report. The Air Force has reversed their decision, and will allow the airman (and anyone else) to omit the words from his military oath. They did so on orders from the Department of Defense, who said the airman must be allowed to re-enlist without having to include _So Help Me God" in his oath of service. Here is the press release from the Air Force on this matter (released on September 17th):

 The Air Force has instructed force support offices across the service to allow both enlisted members and officers to omit the words “So help me God” from enlistment and officer appointment oaths if an Airman chooses.

In response to concerns raised by Airmen, the Department of the Air Force requested an opinion from the Department of Defense General Counsel addressing the legal parameters of the oath. The resulting opinion concluded that an individual may strike or omit the words “So help me God” from an enlistment or appointment oath if preferred.

“We take any instance in which Airmen report concerns regarding religious freedom seriously,” said Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James. “We are making the appropriate adjustments to ensure our Airmen's rights are protected.”

The Air Force will be updating the instructions for both enlisted and commissioned Airmen to reflect these changes in the coming weeks, but the policy change is effective now. Airmen who choose to omit the words 'So help me God' from enlistment and officer appointment oaths may do so.

The language in previous instructions was based on an Air Force legal interpretation of 10 U.S.C. 502, 5 U.S.C. 3331 and Title 32, which contain the oaths of office.

The Air Force requested the review following a ceremony at Creech Air Force Base, Nevada, in which an enlisted Airman struck out the words, “So help me God” on the Department of Defense Form 4 and did not include them in his verbal oath. The Airman's unit was unable to process his paperwork due to the guidance in Air Force Instruction 36-2606, Reenlistment in the United States Air Force, which prohibited any omissions. Now that the Department of Defense General Counsel has provided an opinion, the Airman’s enlistment paperwork will be processed to completion.

No Divorce

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

GOP Could Lose Both Senate & Governor Races In Kansas

This is something the Republicans, both in Kansas and on the national level, didn't expect. Kansas is normally a reliably Republican state, and most pundits thought the GOP could rather easily hang on to the senate seat in that state. But it's certainly not working out that way.

The Democratic candidate (Taylor) saw he was running third (behind both incumbent Republican Roberts and Independent candidate Orman), and since he didn't have the funding to try and fix that, he dropped out of the race to give the Independent a better chance -- and that has worked. Even if Taylor's name stays on the ballot, Orman now has a 7 point lead over Roberts (41% to 34%).

This has scared the heck out of Kansas Republicans, and their Republican Secretary of State ruled that Taylor's name could not be removed from the ballot. They know their only real chance to win is to split the Democratic and Independent vote. But a few days ago, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled in favor of Taylor and said his name must not be included on the ballot. The GOP is trying to find a way around that, but if they do they'll just anger Kansas voters -- since 63% of them agree that Taylor's name should not be on the ballot.

Without Taylor on the ballot, Orman's lead over Roberts stretches to 10 points (46% to 36%). That's a huge lead to try and overcome with only six weeks left before election day.

And that's not the only problem facing Kansas Republicans. Their candidate in the governor's race (incumbent Brownback) is trailing his Democratic opponent (Davis) by about 4 points (42% to 38%). That's a smaller deficit to make up than in the senate race, but it's still a significant lead (exceeding the poll's margin of error). It's conceivable that the GOP could lose both races.

All of these charts were made from information in a new Public Policy Polling survey. That survey was done between September 11th and 14th of a random sample of 1,328 likely Kansas voters, and has a margin of error of 2.7 points.

Behind The President

Political Cartoon is by Lee Judge in the Kansas City Star.

Don't Let Congress Kill The U.S. Postal System

The Republicans want you to think the United States Postal Service (USPS) is a failure, and needs to be abandoned in favor of private carriers. That is a lie. The USPS has always performed effectively, and continues to do so. The only reason it is in any kind of trouble is the onerous requirements that have been placed on it by Congress (especially the Republicans, who don't want their corporate buddies to have to compete with the USPS).

Here is how Texas populist Jim Hightower puts it on his blog:

One public service that people really like and count on is the post office – which literally delivers for us.

Antigovernment ideologues and privatization dogmatists, however, hate the very word "public," and they've long sought to demonize the US Postal Service, undercut its popular support, and finally dismantle it. Their main line of attack has been to depict it as a bloated, inefficient, outmoded agency that's a hopeless money loser, sucking billions from taxpayers. Never mind that USPS doesn't take a dime of tax money to fund its operation – it's actually a congressionally-chartered, for-profit corporation that earns its revenue by selling stamps and services to customers. And here's something that will come as a surprise to most people: The post office makes a profit – expected to be more than a billion dollars this year.

Yet, the media keep reporting that the USPS is losing billions of dollars each year. What they fail to mention, however, is that those are phony paper losses manufactured by Congress at the behest of corporate privatizers.

Late in 2006, the lame duck Republican Congress rammed into law a cockamamie requirement that the Postal Service must pre-fund the retiree health benefits of everyone it employs or expects to employ for the next 75 years. Hello, that includes workers who're not even born yet! No other business in America is required to pre-fund such benefits for even one year. To add to Congress' cockamamie-ness, the service is being forced to put up all of that money within just 10 years – which has been costing USPS more than $5 billion a year. That artificial burden accounts for 100 percent of the so-called "losses" the media keep reporting.

It's like tying an anvil around someone's neck, throwing the person out of a boat, and saying, "Swim to shore, sucker."

Exaggerating ?

Political Cartoon is by Mike Thompson in the Detroit Free Press.

Questions & Religion Don't Mix

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Nearly A Quarter Of Americans Would Like Their State To Peacefully Secede From The United States

In the wake of Scotland's vote on whether to stay in the U.K. or not, Reuters decided to ask the same question of Americans. Do they want their particular state to secede peacefully from the United States? They asked over 9,000 Americans that question, and say their survey has a margin of error of about 1.2 points.

Of course, this is a silly question. The United States is not going to break up -- and we fought a vicious civil war to show that no state has the right to withdraw from this country. But the results of the survey was fairly shocking anyway. It seems that nearly a quarter of the general public would like to see their state secede (if it could be done peacefully). I suspect this is mainly right-wingers, who see the power of Whites starting to wane -- and they don't like that at all. Note that more than half of all teabaggers would like to secede.