A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Wolves


Shameful! - The Obama Administration Helped American Corporations Abuse Poor Workers In Haiti

(This image of Haitian garment workers is from the website Haiti Chery.)

I am beginning to understand why the U.S. government was so upset at the secrets being exposed by WikiLeaks. It had nothing to do with any Americans being put in danger (because they just didn't happen). But it did expose some really shameful exploits engaged in by the government of this country. I would love to tell you that all of those shameful exploits were done by the Republicans, but sadly, that is not true. Consider the following example of an action by the Obama administration -- an action that should embarrass all true Democrats.

Back in 2012, the minimum wage for a Haitian garment worker was 24 cents an hour (about $1.92 a day, or $9.60 for a 40 hour week). Even in a poor country like Haiti, those are some dreadful wages. The Haitian government decided to help those workers by raising the minimum wage to a whopping 61 cents an hour (about $4.88 for an 8 hour day, or $24.40 for a 40 hour week).

Now that may sound like a huge raise in pay to some of you, but the truth is that it would still leave many of those workers in poverty. It takes $12.50 a day for a Haitian family with two children to meet their expenses. But the American corporations doing business in Haiti (like Hanes and Levi Strauss) showed they don';t care about their workers. They weren't happy with just keeping those workers in poverty -- they wanted to continue shamelessly abusing them. So they complained to the Obama administration.

And the Obama administration listened to that outrageous corporate whining -- and put pressure on the Haitian government to stop the minimum wage raise to 61 cents an hour. And that pressure worked. The Haitian government capitulated and granted a raise to only 31 cents an hour (about $2.48 for an 8 hour day, or $12.40 for a 40 hour week).

Frankly, I'm shocked. The United States government had no business interfering in the economic affairs of another country. We certainly wouldn't let Haiti (or any other country) tell us what our minimum wage should be, and we shouldn't be telling them. If anything, we should be encouraging them to mandate a wage that would lift workers out of poverty (and our government should be mandating a wage in our own country that does the same).

It just goes to show what many claim may be true -- that we no longer live in a democracy, but a corporatocracy. And both parties are to blame. The Republicans encouraged the outsourcing of these American jobs and even provided corporations with tax breaks to do it (tax breaks which are still in effect). Now we learn that Democrats are caving in to corporate wishes to help them continue their abuse of foreign workers. Is it any wonder that the American middle class is disappearing and American workers can't get an even break? It's because that's what our corporate masters want.

Nonsense

Political Cartoon is by Jim Morin in The Miami Herald.

Senate Races In Arkansas And Michigan


Republicans thought they would have a pretty easy time taking the senate seat away from the Democrats in Arkansas. After all, Arkansas is a pretty red state. But the latest Rasmussen Poll (taken on August 25th and 26th of 750 likely Arkansas voters, with a margin of error of 4 points) shows this race has turned into a real dogfight. The race is currently a dead heat -- with 44% supporting Pryor (D) and 43% supporting Cotton (R). The Republicans could still win this seat, but I'm starting to think Pryor may actually hold on to it for the Democrats.

Meanwhile, a different poll shows the Democrats in good shape to win the open senate seat in Michigan. It is the EPIC-MRA Poll (taken between August 22nd and 25th of 600 likely Michigan voters, with a 4 point margin of error). That survey shows Democrat Gary Peters leading Republican Terri Lynn Land by a six point margin.


A Choice ?

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

The 40 Hour Work Week Is A Thing Of The Past For Many

Unions fought long and hard for the 40 hour work week, but with the decline of unions (thanks to Republican policies that make it harder to unionize and easier for companies to bust unions), that 40 hour work week is disappearing (see top chart for average hours). The average work week for a full-time worker in the United States is now 47 hours long (44 hours for workers paid on an hourly basis, and 49 hours for workers on a fixed salary).

The bottom chart shows the percentage of workers who must now work overtime. Note that half (50%) of full-time workers now work more than 40 hours a week (with 11% working 40 to 49 hours, 21% working 50 to 59 hours, and 18% working 60 hours or more a week).

With the many millions of unemployed people in this country, one would think employers would hire some more workers since they current employees aren't able to get the required work done in a 40 hour week. But they aren't doing that. Evidently they have decided it is cheaper to just work the workers they have more hours than to hire more workers.

Those who bear the brunt of this new extended work week are the salaried workers -- probably because hourly workers must be paid overtime, while in many companies salaried workers are not paid overtime for the extra hours. Note that only 38% of hourly workers work more than 40 hours, while a whopping 59% of salaried workers do so (with 9% working 41 to 49 hours, 25% working 50 to 59 hours, and 25% working 60 or more hours a week).

The only thing most workers have to sell is their labor --  the time they spend working for pay. It looks to me like employers have just found another way to steal the labor of their employees, especially the salaried employees. Republicans don't see anything wrong with this, because for them a company or corporation can do no wrong. In fact, many of them would be happy to abolish the minimum wage, overtime pay, and child labor laws to please their corporate masters. I disagree. I think all workers should be paid a wage that keeps them out of poverty, and should be paid overtime for any work over 40 hours -- even salaried workers. Anything less than that is just theft -- and should be punished as severely as any other kind of theft.

These charts were made from information contained in a recent Gallup Poll. The survey was done between August 7th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,032 adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points.


Thing 1 And Thing 2

Political Cartoon is by Kevin Siers in the Charlotte Observer.

He/She Just Isn't There

(The comic above is from the website Mimi and Eunice.)

The following post was written by Jared over at Atheism Resource.com. Those who think god can or will fix all the problems in their life won't like it -- but they are the very ones who need to read it the most.

Dear Christian,
I’m not there. I wasn’t in the operating room when your mother had cancer, I wasn’t in the car when your best friend crashed into the median, I wasn’t there when your favorite sports team won the big game. I didn’t show up to your son’s baptism, nor was I present when he was born. I didn’t stop thousands of children from being abused in my supposed house of worship, I didn’t prevent the genocide against my own people at the hands of Adolf Hitler.
I have never been present in the most disease-infested, impoverished continent on the planet. I don’t make it rain, regardless of how many people put their hands together and beg for it. I’ve never been in your schools, your homes, your churches, or your workplaces. I wasn’t there when a maniacal young man killed 26 people, many of whom were toddlers.
I never stopped any leader, in any part of the world, from waging war against others. I don’t care about people being executed, or fetuses being aborted, or gays being allowed to marry. Did it ever bother you that when randomly good things happen to people who live in civilized parts of the world, I always get credit – but when bad things happen in underdeveloped countries, it’s apparently going toward some sort of master plan of mine? There is no master plan. There never has been.
Have you really been convinced that I, the alleged sculptor of this complex reality, care about what human beings do? Did you convince your feeble mind that I care who a person chooses to love? You really think that I created the vastly confusing world of sub-atomic particles, but it bothers me when a woman menstruates?
Do you think I’m petty enough to only care about people who worship me? If I created the entire Universe, and gravity, and atoms, do you truly believe I’m ignorant enough to not recognize the fallibility of my own biological creations? Do you really think I created you, a mere human, in my image? Do you truly believe you’re the best I could have come up with? Do you think a parent who loves his children would allow them to senselessly murder, rape, and hurt one another every single day just so I could give you the ability to choose whether or not you spend an afterlife with me?
“You cannot conceive, nor can I, the appalling nature of the mercy of God,” said Graham Greene.
Do you know why you cannot understand it? Because I simply do not exist. I’ve never existed. I have never been there with you. I have never intervened on behalf of you. I have never helped you acquire a job, or meet that perfect match, or find your car keys. Young children die every single day from starvation, cancer, AIDS, and a slew of other things. If I do not care about the most innocent among you, what makes you think I would care about someone perfectly capable of taking care of themselves?
There is no place for children to go when they die. They cease to exist, much like you, one day, will cease to exist. Your grandmother is not seated next to the human version of myself that I sacrificed to create a loophole for rules that I designed. You will never see your loved ones again. I do not welcome the people you care about into some otherworldly place where everyone gets to sit around and worship me for all of eternity.
I’m not there, dear believer. I never have been.
The truth is, you always ask me to do things for you, but the only person who has the power to make the world a better place is reading this letter right now.
If you want to live in a world that’s peaceful, harmonious, and just – then it’s on you and the rest of your species to make it happen.
I have never had any power to make the world better. But, you do.

Sincerely,

The God Who Wasn’t There

Not Like A Family Budget

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at leftycartoons.com.

No Answers In Religion


Saturday, August 30, 2014

"Trickle-Down" Has Never Worked


Judge Tosses Two Provisions Of Texas' Anti-Abortion Law

(The cartoon image above is by Bill Day at cagle.com.)

It took two special sessions of the legislature to do it (because Wendy Davis filibustered it to death in the first session), but the Republicans finally got their onerous anti-abortion law passed. They claimed the law was to protect the health of Texas women, but that was a lie since it did nothing to protect women's heal -- in fact, it hurt women's health in the state by closing down many heal clinics (the ones offering women the option of an abortion). And that is exactly what the Republicans wanted -- to make it much harder for any Texas women to choose to have an abortion (which is their constitutional right).

The two worst provisions of the law made it mandatory for any doctor performing an abortion to have hospital privileges within a certain small area, and required the health clinics offering the procedure to meet the stringent requirements of an ambulatory surgical center. These requirements have already caused 21 clinics to close (from 41 in June 2013 to 20 in June 2014), and when it went into effect next month would cause the closing of another 15 clinics -- leaving only 5 clinics open in the entire state (and posing a terrible burden on women who do not live near a huge urban area (like Dallas or Houston). This would require some women to travel 300 to 500 miles to exercise their constitutional right to choice.

Fortunately, the women of Texas got a reprieve from this onerous law. On Friday, U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel struck down both of these provisions of the law as unconstitutional. The judge said in his opinion:

The clinic closings attributable to the act’s two requirements will undeniably reduce meaningful access to abortion care for women throughout Texas…House Bill 2’s ambulatory-surgical-center requirement burdens Texas women in a way incompatible with the principles of personal freedom and privacy protected by the United State Constitution of the 40 years since Roe v. Wade. 

When viewed in the context of the other state-imposed obstacles a woman faces when seeking an abortion in Texas—including a sonogram requirement, a waiting period, the reduced number of abortion-performing physicians resulting from the admitting privilege requirement—the court is firmly convinced that the State has placed unreasonable obstacles in the path of woman’s ability to obtain a previability abortion. These substantial obstacles have reached a tipping point that threatens to “chip away at the private choice shielded by Roe”... 

This is only a reprieve though, and I'm sure the Republican-dominated state government of Texas will appeal the ruling. The good news is that since this is the decision of a federal judge, it can't be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court (made up entirely of right-wing Republicans). The bad news is that a federal appeals court and the U.S. Supreme Court could go either way on the matter. Both the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court have small conservative majorities, and have drawn a very nebulous line regarding a woman's right to choice.

Summer Vacation Is Over

Political Cartoon is by David Horsey in the Los Angeles Times.

Congressional Job Approval Numbers For August


These are the very latest job approval numbers for Congress. As you can see, the numbers have not gotten any better (and are unlikely to improve before election day). The voters are still very angry with Congress -- and their inability to compromise on anything. Any congressperson in an even slightly competitive district should be scared to death.

Teabagger Hypocrisy

Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at Politico.com.

Greg Abbott "Chickens Out" Of The Only Statewide Televised Debate With His Democratic Opponent


This is no surprise to many of us familiar with politics in the state of Texas. I was surprised that Abbott ever agreed to a debate with Wendy Davis in the first place. He is an incompetent, and has survived so far just because he caters to the wishes and fears of the teabaggers (who control the Republican Party in Texas). Now he is backing out of that one debate he agreed to participate in.

And Abbott wouldn't even face the media in doing that, but hands the job off to his aides. Those aides say he is backing out of the debate because of an "inability to agree on the specifics of a format". That's ridiculous. Here is what Mike Devlin, the president and general manager of WFAA-TV (who is the primary media outlet broadcasting the debate), had to say about Abbott dropping out:

“We are deeply disappointed that the Abbott campaign has not lived up to the commitment it made to participate in this important debate. WFAA has produced numerous debates which are balanced and fair to all the candidates. This debate would be no different. The citizens of Texas deserve to hear from the candidates for the most important office in the state.”

Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/08/29/6077600/abbott-backs-out-of-only-statewide.html#storylink=cpy

The Wendy Davis campaign was quick to pounce on Abbott's withdrawal, saying:

“It's no surprise that Greg Abbott is pulling out of a long planned debate the day after he was defeated in court for protecting billions in public education cuts that have led to overcrowded classrooms, teacher layoffs and shuttered schools.” 
“Greg Abbott is clearly too afraid to defend his record of siding with insiders at the expense of Texans — whether it's defending funding cuts for classrooms, siding with a corporation against a victim of rape or letting his donors take tens of millions of taxpayer dollars intended for cancer research. This is nothing short of an insult to the voters of Texas."

That's a lot closer to the truth. Abbott started remembering his own record of incompetence and the rhetorical skills of his opponent -- and realized the debate would do nothing but cost him votes. The Lone Star Project calls him a coward for refusing to debate (and I have to agree with them). Here is what the Lone Star Project had to say:


Read more here: http://www.star-telegram.com/2014/08/29/6077600/abbott-backs-out-of-only-statewide.html#storylink=cpyThat's a lot closer to the truth. Abbott started remembering his own record of incompetence and the rhetorical skills of his opponent -- and realized the debate would do nothing but cost him votes. The Lone Star Project calls him a coward for refusing to debate (and I have to agree with them). Here is what the Lone Star Project had to say:
In Texas, we don’t call anyone a coward, unless we mean it and can back it up.

Greg Abbott is a coward.

For the first time in more than a decade, Texans have an open-seat election for Governor.  Every Texan, regardless of their party affiliation or ideological beliefs deserves to hear directly from the candidates - to see them exchange ideas and compare their visions for the future in a non–partisan debate.

Greg Abbott pledged to participate in only one statewide televised debate.  After giving his word to the debate sponsor, WFAA Television, Abbott reversed field and broke his promise to attend and participate.  No credible excuse involving his health, a family emergency or any other plausible explanation for backing out has been given. 

He may be afraid to face Senator Davis. He may be afraid to face the voters. He may even be trying to manipulatively "shop around" for a different debate venue where he feels he has a better chance of controlling the rules or the format, the questions or the size of the viewership.

Whatever the reason, Greg Abbott is backing out of the only this statewide debate because he knows that his appearance in a fair forum, comparing ideas and visions with Wendy Davis will cost him votes.  A debate risks exposing him as a career politician who has used his time on the public payroll to become nothing but another selfish insider - looking out for other insiders and doing damage to Texans who work hard every day to get ahead.

Strength, courage and honor are fundamental requirements to serve as Texas Governor.  Greg Abbott today demonstrated that he lacks all three.



UPDATE -- It looks like Abbott couldn't stand the criticism he got by backing out of the statewide televised debate with Wendy Davis. His campaign is now saying Abbott will participate in the September 30th debate from Dallas. In addition, they are also agreeing to statewide televising of a debate in McAllen earlier. He is getting one small face-saving move. The Dallas debate will not be officially held by WFAA-TV (even though there is no real reason to change the media). Evidently Abbott is more afraid now of being perceived as running away from a woman, than he is of being beaten in a debate by a woman.

SECOND UPDATE -- We now learn that Abbott has agreed to a debate on KERA-TV, but he did that unilaterally -- without asking Wendy Davis, or clearing it with her campaign. It looks like compromise and agreeing on rules is not part of Abbott's game plan (just like other teabaggers). It's his way or the highway. This makes me wonder just what kind of nefarious thing KERA-TV agreed to, and why something couldn't be worked out with WFAA-TV and the Davis campaign. The Davis campaign has now responded by saying:

"There have been reports that the Abbott campaign has 'committed' to another debate, but as we learned today Greg Abbott's commitments don't mean very much. Wendy Davis has already committed the evening of September 30 to a debate on WFAA. The station has asked to have a discussion on Tuesday, September 2, to discuss options given the recent developments and, as Wendy Davis is someone who honors her commitments, the campaign looks forward to having that discussion."

NRA Toy

Political Cartoon is by Bill Bramhall in the New York Daily News.

Jim Hightower Blasts Businesses Paying A "Poverty Wage"

(This photo of Jim Hightower is from the Texas Tribune.)

I have made it clear many times on this blog that I believe the current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a poverty wage -- and nothing more than wage theft. But Jim Hightower, one of the leading progressives in the Lone Star State, has a way with words (that I only wish I had) -- so I bring you his latest remarks on the minimum wage from his own excellent website:

The good news is that it's not all bad news these days.

Take the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour – please! That's a poverty wage, a shameful stain on our extremely rich nation. But don't count on Washington to lift our wage floor – indeed, pigheaded Republican congress critters refuse to consider it, even declaring there should be no wage floor to sustain America's middle-class framework.

So where's the good news? Probably right where you live. Millions of low-wage workers themselves – from fast food workers to adjunct college professors – have been organizing and mobilizing, pushing local leaders to take action against the immoral inequality that's ripping our society apart and sinking our economy. Sure enough, local officials are responding – Seattle, Chicago, New York City, Austin, Providence, San Francisco, and even Oklahoma City, as well as other locales, either have raised their wage floors or are battling the corporate lobbyists to get the job done.

And here's a pleasant surprise: Breaking away from the McDonald's-Domino-Taco Bell herd of low-wage exploiters, several smaller fast food chains are acting on their own, raising their starting pay levels as high as $15 an hour, plus benefits. The Boloco burrito chain in New England, for example, has raised its minimum to $9 an hour, plus subsidizing its employees' commuting costs and contributing to their 401(k) fund. A Boloco co-founder says, "If we're talking about building a business that's successful, but our employees can't go home and pay their bills, to me that success is a farce."

Exactly! If you can't pay your workers a decent wage, then you don't have a legitimate business. The multimillion-dollar executives at poverty-pay outfits like McDonald's aren't running a business, they're running a labor extortion racket.

No Policy That Works ?

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at leftycartoons.com.

War For The 1%


Friday, August 29, 2014

The U.S. Creates Its Own Wars


The U.S. Has Problems Because It's Still Too Segregated


The United States Constitution guarantees equal rights under the law to all American citizens, and anyone with a bit of common sense knows that equal rights cannot exist until equal opportunity also exists. This is so important that the country passed a series of civil rights laws back in the 1960's. They did that because too many states (primarily in the South, where segregation was the law) were ignoring the constitutional guarantees.

Unfortunately, that did not solve the nation's racial problems -- either among people or under the law. Anyone paying the slightest bit of attention has to know that Blacks (and other minorities as well) are not treated equally to Whites in this country. The past couple of weeks this has been shown by the actions in Ferguson, Missouri -- where the unequal treatment of Blacks by the police has come to a head. It's not just in Ferguson though. It occurs across the country, and in more aspects of our society than just the police (schools, workplaces, courts, etc.).

Of course this brings up the question -- why is this still true? If we have laws that eliminate discrimination, and most Americans believe people should be treated equally (and I think most Americans do believe that), then why does racism and discrimination continue to exist? Why haven't we put this sickness behind us by now?

A big clue to finding that answer can be seen in the results of a survey done by the Public Religion Research Institute in their American Values Survey. They came up with the chart above from the results of that survey -- and I have to admit the results they show are rather shocking. It seems that will segregation has been outlawed legally, it is still practiced by most Americans.

It shows that, on average, if Whites had 100 friends then 91 of those friends would be other Whites. And remember, this is an average, meaning far too many Whites would have no true friends of any other race or ethnicity (although I suspect many would try to counter this by claiming casual acquaintances as friends). Blacks do a little better, by having 83 of their 100 friends to be other Blacks.

To be blunt -- we still live in a segregated society. It may not be legal segregation, but it is segregation nonetheless -- a segregation of personal choice. And that is just sad. How are we to understand the problems faced by others when we don't socialize with them or spend much time around them? If we don't engage with people of a different racial or ethnic background, it makes it much easier to ignore the problems they face (and assume they have only the same problems we have). In short, it makes it easier for Whites to ignore the continuing realities of racism and bigotry in this country.

This self-imposed segregation is hurting us, both as individuals and as a nation. Our lives are enriched when we embrace people of other races, ethnicities, and cultures. It broadens our views and opens our minds -- and allows us to escape the tiny world we were born into.

This is not something that will be easy to change, since most people tend to hate change of any kind and are loath to try new things. There is hope though. Young people (the millennials) are breaking this pattern -- and because of that, by the time they become seniors the country could be very different. I certainly hope so. Racism and bigotry are evils, and have no place in a democratic society.

The Burden

Political Cartoon is by Barry Deutsch at leftycartoons.com.

The Best Countries For Gays/Lesbians


I thought this was interesting. The Gallup Poll did one of their global surveys, and this time they asked the residents of each country if they thought their country was a good place for gays/lesbians to live -- a country where they could have a good life, free of discrimination. It should be no surprise that the United States did not finish first on this list -- because there is still a lot of ill feeling toward gays/lesbians in this country (mainly from fundamentalists, who use their religion to justify their bigotry). It did finish higher than most other countries though -- coming in 11th in a tie with Denmark.

There are 31 countries on the chart. I picked that number to chart because those were the only countries with at least 50% of their population saying their country was a good place for gays/lesbians to live. All other countries finished below the 50% level (and some countries were down around 1% or 2%).

NOTE -- I believe you can get a larger image by clicking on the chart.

Flame-Broiled

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

America Is Losing It's Prudishness



For much of this country's history, the American public has been very prudish. Nudity was shocking to most, and sex was considered to be something dirty that could not be talked about (especially in a school health class). Most of Europe and much of Asia have been much more open-minded about nudity and sex -- probably because they don't let religion rule their society as much as we do in America.

But that seems to be changing. This YouGov Poll shows that most people in the U.S. think Americans are too easily offended by sex and nudity. This includes Democrats and Independents. Only the Republicans disagree (and think Americans should be prudish when it comes to sex and nudity) -- but that's understandable since that party has most of the nation's right-wing fundamentalists. And it turns out that both genders, all races, and most age groups also think Americans are too prudish -- with only those 65 and older not agreeing (they are split on the question).

I don't know about you, but I think this is a very good thing. It's about time that Americans grew up, and realized that sex (as long as it is consensual) is a natural thing, and so is nudity. I'm not saying we should all go around nude (I doubt many would want me to do that), but it's not the end of the world (or some kind of sin) to see someone nude.

The charts were made from a survey taken on August 2nd and 3rd of a random national sample of 1,000 American adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points.

Climate Change

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

The GOP War On The Poor


Thursday, August 28, 2014

Time For A Boycott



Black/White Gap Growing On Ferguson Police Actions



I am old enough to remember when segregation of the races was the norm in the South (including my home state of Texas). There were separate restrooms, water fountains, and schools for Blacks and Whites -- and Blacks were not allowed to sit with Whites on transportation vehicles or in restaurants. It was a terrible time, and I never understood why Blacks and Whites weren't treated equally (because, thank goodness, I was not raised by racist parents).

Then we had the turbulent sixties, when Blacks (and some Whites) rose up and demanded change. There were demonstrations throughout the South, and many of those demonstrations turned violent. But Americans in general understood that it was not the demonstrators but the police (spurred on by the White power structure) that was instigating the violence (through arrests of people exercising their constitutional right to assemble, through beatings, and by turning fire hoses and attack dogs on peaceful demonstrators).

That police violence played a big part in turning many Americans (including most Whites) against segregation, and everyone but the racists understood the need for the civil rights laws -- and were happy to see them passed. Unfortunately, too many Whites in America thought that had solved the nation's racial problems. It didn't solve those problems (although it did help some), but it allowed White Americans to once again put the nation's racial problems on the back burner.

But for Black Americans, many racial problems persisted -- especially in how they are treated by the police and in the justice system. And the statistics are there for anyone who wants to see. Blacks are stopped, harassed, beaten, and even killed by the police far more than Whites. And Blacks are sent to prison in far greater numbers than Whites -- even when convicted of the same crimes. But while Blacks must live with these racial problems, Whites don't (and that makes it easy to deny that the problems exist).

Then we had the shooting of an unarmed Black youth in Ferguson by the police -- shot six times while trying to surrender with his arms in the air. That was just one time too many, and the Black community reacted by holding demonstrations. And they were met with a militarized police force (with military uniforms, assault rifles, tear gas, and military vehicles) that treated them as an enemy, rather than American citizens exercising their constitutional right to assemble and ask the government for a redress of their grievances. And the police provoked violence -- reminding me of the bad old days when Southern police turned on peaceful demonstrators with violence.

Sadly, the reaction to this police violence was different than it had been back in the sixties. The public (especially Whites) wants now to blame the demonstrators, instead of the police provoking the violence. Note in the charts above that 34% of Whites thought the police violence was reasonable, while only 32% said it was unreasonable -- far different from the 16% of Blacks saying it was reasonable to 48% saying it was unreasonable.

That was bad enough, but in the few days since that first survey the gap between the views on Whites and Blacks has grown wider. Now 45% of Whites see the Ferguson police actions as reasonable to only 14% of Blacks -- and 63% of Blacks see those actions as unreasonable to only 27% of Whites (a whopping 36 point gap).

This leads me to the conclusion that today many Whites don't see (or don't want to see) the racial problems that persist in this country -- and that means those problems will just continue. Problems don't heal themselves in this world -- they just grow worse by being ignored.

NOTE -- The charts above were made from information in surveys taken by the YouGov Poll. The surveys were taken August 14-17 and August 20-21 of a random national sample of 1,000 adults, with a margin of error of about 4 points.

The Funeral

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

U.S. Senate Race In Iowa Is Currently A Dead Heat


The chart above was made from information in a new Public Policy Polling survey. They surveyed 915 likely Iowa voters between August 22nd and 24th, and the poll has a margin of error of 3.2 points.

The senate race in Iowa is going to be very important this year. If the Republicans want to take over the majority in that legislative body, they will need to win this seat. But that is turning out to be tougher than expected. Right now the race is a dead heat between Democrat Bruce Braley and Republican Joni Ernst (41% to 40%). There are three Independent candidates and a Libertarian in the race, but the combined support for all four is only about 5% -- not enough to have much effect on the race.

Looking at the demographics of the chart above, a couple of interesting things are apparent. First, women support the male Democratic candidate by the same margin that men support the female Republican candidate -- about 9 points. This would tend to give the Democrat a slight advantage, since women tend to vote in larger numbers than men.

Second, there is still a significant number of voters who say they are undecided -- about 14%. I believe the Republican candidate must take a majority of these undecided voters to win in November. Can she do that? No one knows. That makes this a very interesting race to watch as election day draws near.

Self-Inflicted Wounds

Political Cartoon is by Mike Luckovich in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Green Party Links Police Militarization To Federal Policies


The Green Party abhors the militarization of police in the United States, but doesn't think that will change until federal policies change -- policies that militarize everything the federal government does, from the budget to foreign policy. I think they have a good point. The following article was written by Green Party Shadow Cabinet member David Swanson (pictured) on August 14th:

Groups on the ground in St. Louis are calling for nationwide solidarity actions in support of Justice for Mike Brown and the end of police and extrajudicial killings everywhere.”
As they should. And we should all join in.
But “nationwide” and “everywhere” are odd terms to equate when discussing police militarization. Are we against extrajudicial killings (otherwise known as murder) by U.S. government employees and U.S. weapons in Pakistan? Yemen? Iraq? Gaza? And literally everywhere they occur? The militarization of local police in the United States is related to the militarization of U.S. foreign policy, which has now reached the point that bombing and “doing nothing” are generally conceived as the only two choices available. Local police are being militarized as a result of these factors:
  • A culture glorifying militarization and justifying it as global policing.
  • A federal government that directs roughly $1 trillion every year into the U.S. military, depriving virtually everything else of needed resources.
  • A federal government that still manages to find resources to offer free military weapons to local police in the U.S. and elsewhere.
  • Weapons profiteers that eat up local subsidies as well as federal contracts while funding election campaigns, threatening job elimination in Congressional districts, and pushing for the unloading of weapons by the U.S. military on local police as one means of creating the demand for more.
  • The use of permanent wartime fears to justify the removal of citizens’ rights, gradually allowing local police to begin viewing the people they were supposed to protect as low-level threats, potential terrorists, and enemies of law and order in particular when they exercise their former rights to speech and assembly. Police “excesses” like war “excesses” are not apologized for, as one does not apologize to an enemy.
  • The further funding of abusive policing through asset forfeitures and SWAT raids.
  • The further conflation of military and police through the militarization of borders, especially the Mexican border, the combined efforts of federal and local forces in fusion centers, the military’s engagement in “exercises” in the U.S., and the growth of the drone industry with the military, among others, flying drones in U.S. skies and piloting drones abroad from U.S. land.
  • The growth of the profit-driven prison industry and mass incarceration, which dehumanize people in the minds of participants just as boot camp and the nightly news do to war targets.
  • Economically driven disproportionate participation in, and therefore identification with, the military by the very communities most suffering from its destruction of resources, rights, and lives.
But policing is not the only thing militarized by what President Eisenhower called the “total influence — economic, political, even spiritual” of the military industrial complex. Our morality is militarized, our entertainment is militarized, our natural world is militarized, and our education system is militarized. “Unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex” is not easily opposed while maintaining the military industrial complex. When Congress Members lend their support to a new war in Iraq while proposing that the U.S. Post Office and a dozen other decent things not be defunded, they are speaking out of both sides of their mouths. The United States cannot live like other wealthy nations while dumping $1 trillion a year into a killing machine.
The way out of this cycle of madness in which we spend more just on recruiting someone into the military or on locking them up behind bars than we spend on educating them is to confront in a unified and coherent manner what Martin Luther King Jr. called the evils of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the local police. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to weapons testing sites. Not racism, extreme materialism, and what the military does to the people of Honduras causing them to flee to a land that then welcomes them with an attitude of militarism. Not any of these partial steps alone, but the whole package of interlocking evils of attitude and mindset.
There is a no-fly-zone over Ferguson, Missouri, because people in the U.S. government view the people of the United States increasingly as they view the people of other countries: as best controlled from the air. Notes the War Resister League,
“Vigils and protests in Ferguson – a community facing persistent racist profiling and police brutality – have been attacked by tear gas, rubber bullets, police in fully-armored SWAT gear, and tank-like personnel carriers. This underscores not only the dangers of being young, Black, and male in the US, but also the fear of mobilization and rebellion from within racialized communities facing the violence of austerity and criminalization.
“The parallels between the Israeli Defense Forces in Palestine, the Military Police of Rio de Janeiro, the Indian police in Kashmir, the array of oppressive armed forces in Iraq, and the LAPD in Skid Row could not be any clearer. . . .
“This is not happening by accident. What is growing the capacity of local police agencies to exercise this force are police militarization programs explicitly designed to do so. As St. Louis writer Jamala Rogers wrote in an article on the militarization of St. Louis Police this past April, ‘It became clear that SWAT was designed as a response to the social unrest of the 1960s, particularly the anti-war and black liberation movements.’ Federal programs such as DoD 1033 and 1122, and the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI), in which St. Louis Police are active participants, provide weapons and training to police departments across the country, directly from the Pentagon. Commenting on the ominous growth of the phenomenon, Rogers continues: ‘and now, Police Chief [of St. Louis Police] Sam Dotson wants to add drones to his arsenal.’
“The events in Ferguson over these last few days demonstrate that the violence of policing and militarism are inextricably bound. To realize justice and freedom as a condition for peace, we must work together to end police militarization and violence.”
The War Resisters League is organizing against Urban Shield, an expo of military weapons for police and training event planned for Oakland, Calif., this September 4-8. The Week of Education and Action will take place in Oakland from August 30-September 5. Read all about it here.

Logical ?

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

True


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Moral Crisis


Gallup Poll Indicates An Elevated Turnout For 2014 Election


The chart above was made from information contained in a recent Gallup Poll. The latest survey was done between August 7th and 10th of a random national sample of 1,032 adults, with a margin of error of 4 points. This latest survey is compared to Gallup Poll results in previous off-year elections, along with the actual voter turnout in those elections.

Democrats have been hoping for a larger than normal turnout for the 2014 election. That is because large turnouts usually favor Democratic candidates. And the results shown by Gallup for the past few off-year elections should give Democrats hope for this year's election.

Note that in the last five off-year elections the voter turnout was above 40% when congressional approval was low (26% or lower) -- and when congressional approval was not so low, the voter turnout dropped below 40%. This indicates that more voters turn out to vote in an off-year election when congressional approval is low. And congressional approval has never been as low as it currently is -- about 13% (8 points below the previous low in 2010).

Now you may be thinking to yourself that the last time congressional approval was low (21%) in 2010, the vote was very good for the Republicans and allowed them to flip control of the House of Representatives. But there were two aspects in 2010 that are not true for 2014 -- the House was controlled by Democrats, and most of the people disapproving of Congress were Republicans and GOP-leaning Independents.

In 2014 the Republicans control the House, and all segments of the public are angry with Congress (Republicans, Independents, and Democrats). While voter anger drove Republicans to the polls in large numbers in 2010, it will likely drive all three political elements to the polls in large numbers in 2014 -- and that favors the party not in control, the Democrats.

I know the political pundits are still predicting the Republicans will hang on to their House majority in this election (thanks to some effective gerrymandering) -- but I still believe there is a good chance that control of the House can flip to the Democrats. And a larger than normal turnout, combined with a definite anti-incumbent feeling among voters, can only increase Democratic chances.

Frequent Flier

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Marijuana Not Only Has Medicinal Value - It Saves Lives

(The cartoon image above was found in The Oklahoma Observer.)

Ever since the federal government made marijuana illegal to possess in the 1930's, they have been claiming that marijuana has no medical value -- and because of that claim, they made it a Schedule I drug (like heroin) and came down hard on those who would use it. Of course that was a lie.

People have known for many centuries that the gentle herb known as cannabis (marijuana) has many medicinal uses. But the government couldn't admit that -- because if they did, then the public would never have allowed it to be made illegal. The truth is that marijuana is not dangerous (probably the least dangerous drug known to mankind), and has many medicinal uses.

Marijuana was not made illegal because it had no medicinal use, or because it is a dangerous drug (because neither of those claims is true). It was made illegal so it could be used as a social weapon against minorities (and after the 1960's) against young people -- the groups that might challenge the policies of the White power structure. It was a tool to quash social unrest.

But now at least half of all Americans have tried marijuana (and probably even more than that, since many people won't admit to breaking a law -- even in the past). And these people know they have been lied to about marijuana. They realize that it is not a dangerous drug, and they are starting to understand it has many medicinal uses. That's why a growing number of states are starting to legalize the use of marijuana for medical purposes.

Now we learn, through a recent study published in JAMA Internal Medicine, that in the states with legal medical marijuana, that marijuana use as an analgesic may actually be saving thousands of lives. Those states offer marijuana as an alternative to other painkillers -- painkillers that can not only have serious side effects, but can easily be overdosed (causing death). Marijuana cannot be overdosed and has no side effects (other than a gentle euphoria).

The study was done between 1999 and 2010, and it showed the states which had medical marijuana (13 states during that time period) had a lower percentage of overdose deaths among those trying to treat their pain. Dr. Marcus Bachhuber (the study's lead author) said, "We found there was about a 25% lower rate of prescription painkiller overdose deaths on average after implementation of a medical marijuana law."

The study found that those 13 states have about 1,700 fewer overdose deaths than would have been expected without the medical marijuana laws (using statistics from before those laws were passed). That's an average reduction in overdose deaths of 131 for each of those 13 states. Just imagine. If all 50 states had a medical marijuana law during that period, more than 6,500 deaths could have been prevented.

This means our ridiculous prohibition of marijuana is not only making criminals of otherwise honest and hard-working citizens, and costing our governments huge sums of money -- it is actually costing thousands of lives. I personally believe marijuana should be legal for use by adults and taxed -- but at the very least, it should be made legal for medicinal purposes in all 50 states as soon as possible. All people trying to control serious pain (from a variety of sources) should have the option of using this far safer drug.

Florida Political Animals

Political Cartoon is by Bill Day at cagle.com.

Texas Supreme Court Says Workers Don't Have Rights

(The cartoon image above is from cartoonaday.com.)

If you are a rich person or own a corporation then you'll probably like Texas. You'll pay a far smaller portion of your income in taxes than other Texans, and you'll have more rights than other Texans -- at least a lot more than Texans who have to work for others to scratch out a living.

It's not the same for workers. Texas has the largest number of workers making at or below the federal minimum wage, and a larger percentage of minimum wage workers than any other state -- and most of those workers don't have any health insurance to go with their poverty wage (with more than a quarter of Texas workers not being covered with insurance). And Texas is an employment "at will" state -- meaning that your boss can fire you at any time for any reason, or for no reason at all. Neither loyalty, doing a good job, working hard, not punctuality and excellent attendance will protect a worker if a boss decides to get rid of him/her.

Texas is not the only "at will" state. But most other "at will" states have some exceptions to the rule. Exceptions like "good faith" and "fair dealing" -- which means the company must treat a worker fairly and deal with them in good faith (i.e., truthfully). But that is not the case in Texas, and the Texas Supreme Court recently made it clear that workers have no rights -- not even when the company deals unfairly with them, and in fact, outright lies to them.

Here is how mainstreet.com  reports on a recent case decided by the Texas Supreme Court regarding workers' rights (with Chief Justice Nathan Hecht writing the decision):

In 2002 E.I. du Pont de Nemours announced plans to turn some of its operations into a separate subsidiary. Most of the affected employees were under a union agreement that gave them the right to transfer within DuPont if they preferred, a decision which would have cost the company an enormous amount of money to retrain the transfers and hire their replacements.

The employees were worried that if DuPont sold the new subsidiary it would hurt both their pay and retirement funds. To convince them to work in the subsidiary instead of transferring within the company, DuPont assured its employees that it had absolutely no plans to sell the spin-off. Based on this promise almost everyone moved to the subsidiary, which a few weeks later DuPont sold to Koch Industries. Koch cut both salaries and retirement packages. DuPont had, as it turns out, been negotiating this deal the entire time.

The Texas Supreme Court sees no problem with any of this.

Writing for the court, Hecht noted that at-will employment in the state of Texas means that aworker can be fired "for good cause, bad cause or no cause at all.". . .

No fraud exception exists to at-will employment in Texas, Hecht ruled, meaning that DuPont was free to sell its subsidiary and effectively fire the entire staff without fear of consequence. The court also noted that fraud requires an element of reasonable reliance, which doesn't exist in at-will employment.Workers can't rely on any promise that involves them keeping their jobs because the employer is free to just fire them for something else instead. . .

The Texas Supreme Court held, essentially, that fraudulent inducement is immaterial in at-will employment, because either way you're out thedoor. The employer could have gotten rid of you with or without the lie, so you can't claim fraud, because the deception was irrelevant.

This shouldn't surprise anyone familiar with Texas. The Texas Supreme Court is made up entirely of Republicans, and they have a reputation of deciding cases for corporations and against workers (or consumers). This is in line with all elected Republican officials -- because the only constituencies they care about are the rich and the corporations (the ones who make the donations that keep them in office).

This is a big reason why we need to elect Democrats to state-wide office. It's time for workers to get a fair deal (and a fair wage) -- and that's just not going to happen as long as the Republicans control state government and state courts.

If Cops Treated Bankers Like Blacks

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at jensorensen.com.

Republicans