A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Cannabis


Religion


All religions claim to have the truth -- the revelation from god (or gods) as to how us humans should live our lives (and worship the supernatural). But the fact is that no religion covers even a majority of the world's people -- and each is further broken down into several (or even hundreds) of different sects (all of whom, of course, have the only truth). If there is a god/gods, then he/she/they either have a very loose definition of the truth or a very good sense of humor.

The percentages above are from the Pew Research Center's report titled "The Global Religious Landscape".

Egg Painting (GOP-Style)

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

Zombie Day

(The image above was found on the pages of Godless Liberals.)

It's Zombie Day again -- the day that millions of supposedly rational people put logic aside and celebrate the rising from the dead of their favorite religious zombie. And according to their Bible (a book many say cannot be in error), Jesus wasn't the only zombie that rose from the dead at that time. According to the book of Matthew:

Matthew 27:51  -  And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent;
Matthew 27:52  -  And the graves were opened; and many bodies of the saints which slept arose,
Matthew 27:53  -  And came out of the graves after his resurrection, and went into the holy city, and appeared unto many.

That sounds like a pretty extraordinary event -- an event that would be eagerly recorded and reported by historians. How is it, I wonder, that none of them seem to have been aware of this momentous event? Could it be that it didn't really happen? Could it be that the Bible, like other religious books, is merely a book of myths written by leaders to subjugate and control the masses -- and is still used in that way?

CNN Covers Easter

Political Cartoon is by David Fitzsimmons in the Arizona Daily Star.

Is It Moral ?

This is one of the two days of the year that christians, many of whom ignore their religion's teachings most of the time, turn their thoughts to their "savior" and his teachings (the other day being christmas). I think this makes today a good time to look at some things that many christians, especially fundamentalists, say are immoral. And the Pew Research Center has done a poll that takes an interesting look at what is considered immoral or moral today.

They looked at eight things that many today consider immoral (divorce, abortion, drinking alcohol, homosexuality, sex between unmarried people, affairs by married people with others, use of contraceptives, and gambling), and polled people in 40 nations on whether they thought these things were moral, immoral, or not a moral issue. The nations were pretty representative of the world -- containing countries in all areas, with different religions, and having both developed and third world countries. You can go here for a list of these countries.

I'm not sure where christians get the idea that some of these things are immoral. Things like abortion, drinking alcohol, or using contraceptives are not specifically banned in their religious book. In fact, Jesus is supposed to have miraculously turned water into wine so the members of a wedding could continue their celebration, so he obviously didn't think drinking alcohol was sinful. Some will say the Biblical exhortation not to kill covers abortion, but the Bible does not really say that (and makes many exceptions to the commandment not to kill, including exceptions to the killing of children).

What I found most interesting about the Pew Research Center report was the difference (sometimes small and sometimes large) between what people in the United States thought was moral, and what people in the world thought (as represented by an average of the 40 countries surveyed). Those results are shown in the charts below.









The Cross

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in the Hartford Courant.

Keep The Facts Straight


Saturday, April 19, 2014

Impossible Request


Public's Confidence In The President & Party Congressional Leaders On The Economy


The accepted "wisdom" of Beltway political pundits is that while the public may agree with the Democrats on some issues, they prefer the Republicans when it comes to fixing the economy. I have always found this to be hard to believe, since it is the GOP's failed "trickle-down" economic policy that got us into this economic mess in the first place. Now there is evidence that the public is smarter than those pundits give them credit for.

The chart above is made from yearly Gallup Polls -- the latest being done between April 3rd and 6th of a random national sample of 1,026 adults, with a margin of error of 5 points. The sample and margin of error is similar for the previous years.

As recently as 2011, the Republicans did have a slight edge in public confidence in how to deal with the economy. But that has disappeared. And while the public is angry at the failure of both parties to compromise and fix the economy, they are most angry with the Republican leaders in Congress. They give an 11 point edge to the Democrats (35% to 24%). And while the Republicans like to talk about how unpopular the president's economic policies are, the truth is that he has huge 18 point lead over them.

Personally, I hope the Republicans are silly enough to run on their same old economic policy of take from the poor and middle class to give more to the rich. "Trickle-down" just doesn't fool anyone anymore (except for the teabaggers, who never seem to learn).

Climate Alerts

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

The GOP Has A Simplistic & Mean-Spirited View Of Poverty


The Republicans in Congress have for decades now pursued economic policies that ignore the poor and favor the wealthy. And this current crop of Republican elected officials have gone even further. They want to take away the few crumbs this government tosses to the poor, so they can give even more to the wealthy. The latest budget passed by House Republicans cuts all programs designed to help take care of the poor and help them to better themselves, while slashing taxes for the richest Americans (and giant corporations). They are helping those who need no help, while hurting those in most need of help.

I have often wondered how they could be so misguided and downright hard-hearted -- especially since they are the loudest to proclaim they are christians (followers of a person who taught it was the responsibility of his followers to help the poor and disadvantaged). It would seem they aren't interested in the teachings of christianity, but just in how the religion can be used to further their own goals. And those goals involve little more than selfishness and greed.

But it is not just the superficial use of religion that guides these Republicans. They have a simplistic and rather mean-spirited view of the world -- a view that shows itself in their very different treatment of the poor and the wealthy. If a person is poor, they believe it is because they have individual failings and a poor work ethic. And if a person is wealthy, it is because that wealthy person worked harder than all the people who aren't wealthy. In other words, both poverty and wealth are the fault of the individual.

Of course this simplistic view ignores the fact that the world (and this country) are a lot more complicated than that. The truth is that most of the wealthy were either born into wealth, or born with certain advantages that gave them a head start over others. And most of the poor were born without any of those advantages, but instead faced huge disadvantages in overcoming their poverty -- things like having an inadequate/unhealthy diet, no access to education in a good school, no access to funding for higher education, poor access to modern technology, no access to adequate health care (especially preventative care), etc.

It is much easier to justify denying help and opportunity to the poor when you blame them for their own condition -- and easier to tilt the economic playing field to advantage the rich. But this is a denial of reality. No one wants to be poor, and most of the poor work hard at full-time jobs (jobs that pay so little that they remain stuck in poverty). They work just as hard as the rich (harder most of the time), but are denied the opportunity to better themselves or their children.

Think I am not being fair to those Republicans? Then look at the results from a recent YouGov Poll (done on April 15th and 16th of a nationwide sample of 1,000 adults, with a 4.3 point margin of error). Note that the GOP base has the same simplistic and mean-spirited view as their elected officials.





Obamacare Disaster (For The GOP)

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

2016 Presidential Preference Of Texas Republicans


As they have done in other states they've polled, the folks at Public Policy Polling questioned registered Republican voters (294 of them with a margin of error of 5.7 points) between April 10th and 13th, to find out what their preference was right now for a 2016 Republican presidential nominee.

The right-wing extremist senator, Ted Cruz, turned out to be the favorite -- eclipsing Jeb Bush by 11 points, and three others by 15 points (Mike Huckabee, Rand Paul, Rick Perry). After that there is another 5 point drop to Paul Ryan and Chris Christie (putting them 20 points behind Cruz. One might be tempted to label Cruz as the favorite now, but this is a home state phenomena that he has not been able to replicate in other states. So the Republicans are still without a real favorite.

But while Cruz is the clear favorite among Texas Republicans (getting the support of one out of four), he doesn't do real well when all Texans are asked if he should run for president. A majority of 54% don't want him to run. But that's better than Rick Perry does. About 66% of Texans say Perry should not run (including a majority of Republicans). Maybe they're afraid he'll embarrass them again like he did in 2012.



Paint By Numbers

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in the Hartford Courant.

A Reckless Vision


Friday, April 18, 2014

Freeloader


Insurance Purchases Through Obamacare Top 8 Million



When it comes to the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), things just keep getting worse for the Republicans. They predicted that only sick people would purchase insurance under Obamacare, and that would raise the price of premiums for everyone. But that didn't happen. The ratio of sick to healthy people did not change (and in fact, 30% of new policies were sold to young & healthy people), and because the insurance companies now have a much larger pool of consumers, the premium price has actually gone down (in New York the premiums have been cut in half).

They also predicted that the number of policies sold through the Obamacare exchanges would not even reach the revised CBO estimate of 6 million new policies. They were wrong again. The number of policies sold through Obamacare has now topped 8 million policies -- a staggering figure that even Democrats could not have predicted.

And that is not all of the bad news for the Republicans. Another 5 million people purchased insurance policies without going through either the federal or state insurance exchanges. And even though they didn't go through the Obamacare exchange, they are also receiving the benefits provided by Obamacare -- lower premium prices and better quality insurance policies. That means the number of policies improved by Obamacare actually tops 13 million (and that's policy numbers, not individuals helped -- which would be much higher). And this doesn't count the millions who now are covered by their parents' insurance or the many millions who qualify for Medicaid in the states that expanded that program.

The national GOP leadership just sent out a memo telling those running for office to run against Obamacare this year, telling them that is a winning strategy. It may be a winning strategy for the primaries (where they have to keep the teabaggers happy), but I believe it may not be so good for the general election. Do they really want to tell the many millions who are now benefitting from Obamacare that they will repeal it, and go back to the old system (which means poorer quality policies that cost more) -- especially in light of several polls showing a majority now want to keep Obamacare (and improve it)?

The Republicans will continue to whine about Obamacare -- at least for a while. They must do that to keep their base happy. But even they have to know that the real fight is over now. Obamacare is here to stay (until there is enough support to go further, and establish a single-payer system).

Least Supreme

Political Cartoon is by John Darkow in the Columbia Daily Tribune.

Stations Carrying Limbaugh Doing Poorly In The Ratings

(This caricature of Rush Limbaugh is by the inimitable DonkeyHotey.)

A few years ago, Rush Limbaugh was the king of talk radio and talk radio was very popular. Those days are gone. That is the opinion of industry expert Holland Cooke, who says:

The conversation really picked up on February 29, 2012, Leap Year Day which was Day 1 of this three-day Rush Limbaugh/Sandra Fluke faux pas. And, if we were studying the history of talk radio, you stick a pin in the timeline there because at that moment, a very well organized and relentless advertiser boycott effort which remains underway today, rendered that business inviable.
Hundreds of blue-chip national advertisers basically have not only wandered away from Rush Limbaugh and some of the other righties, they’ve abandoned the format entirely.  They are afraid to be heard on a news talk station because this man’s use of his free speech triggered the opposing viewpoint exercising THEIR right to free speech.
The boycotters are speaking and using the marketplace to say, “ENOUGH!”  So as a consequence of all of this, the very company that owns, for instance, The Rush Limbaugh Show, which owns a bunch of great big talk stations has actually demoted him to smaller talk stations in two really big markets.  You and I did an Ed Show about this at the time. In Los Angeles and San Francisco they moved him aside because his continuing presence was making it tough to make a go of it with the big stations.
So he was told to go sit at the kid’s table and the irony in this is that for years the radio righties have been cackling about progressive radio’s failure to attain their level of listenership while the radio lefties had to go sit at the kid’s table.  Well now he’s there. . .
So the short answer is talk radio as we know it, the crazy uncle righty politically monologue-based I’m right you’re wrong genre is mathematically in trouble.
How bad is it? Well look at the ratings of the stations carrying Rush Limbaugh's show in the biggest markets. The stations carrying Limbaugh are 22nd in New York, 37th in Los Angeles, 19th in Chicago, 21st in Dallas, and 27th in San Francisco. That's a far cry from where he was a couple of years ago. The company Rush works for has removed him from their big stations (because he was losing them too much market share and money), and put him on smaller stations with less power (and therefore less reach).

Now some will say that this is censorship and a violation of free speech -- but that is nonsense. The constitutional guarantee of free speech just guarantees that the government will not punish Rush (or anyone else) for their speech. It does not say the public at large, or the radio stations, can't act in their own interests. The public, including those urging an advertising boycott, have just as much right to free speech as Rush does -- and their speech has been very effective (costing him more than 3100 advertisers).

The truth is that the free market (which right-wingers say they support) has spoken, and it is saying it wants nothing to do with Limbaugh. His days of radio supremacy are over. He may or may not get a new contract, but if he does it will be for far less than he's now making. His marketability has fallen drastically.

Singing Cowboy

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

The Issues That Could Turn Texas Blue

A couple of days ago, I posted about the new Public Policy Polling survey on Texas (taken between April 10th and 13th of 559 registered Texas voters, with a margin of error of 4.1 points). That survey showed that Wendy Davis is starting out this election campaign substantially behind the Republicans candidate -- and the same is true of other statewide candidates.

This is no real surprise in a state that has been going as red as Texas has for the last 20 years. Wendy Davis, and the other statewide Democratic candidates, are going to have to work hard and make a good case for why Texas voters should support them instead of the Republicans.

Fortunately, that same poll gives us a clue as to how this could be done. After polling about the candidates, the survey also asked the voters what they thought about some popular issues that are being considered in this country right now, and they found that Texas voters are in general agreement with the rest of the country on these issues -- expanding Medicaid, raising the minimum wage to $10 an hour, and supporting the Paycheck Fairness Act (equal pay for equal work for women and men).

It turns out that far more Texans support these issues than oppose them. In other words, they support the Democratic position on these issues -- that Medicaid should be expanded, that the minimum wage should be raised, and that they want women and men to get equal pay for equal work. This should worry the Republicans, since that oppose all three issues (and therefore, what most voters want).

I think the survey showed that some voters may not understand what the Paycheck Fairness Act is all about. Note that while they generally support it, the support is astronomical when asked if they support equal pay for equal work for women and men (which is all the Paycheck Fairness Act seeks to do).

If Wendy, Leticia (and other statewide Democratic candidates) are smart, they will hit the GOP hard on these issues -- over and over again. These are issues that could draw votes to their ticket, and just possibly turn the state blue.


(Note -- The image of Texas as a blue state is from the website of the texas leftist.)

Women's Wages

Political Cartoon is by Adam Zyglis in The Buffalo News.

Bernie Blasts The Extremism Of The Koch-Owned GOP

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has never been one to mince words. He always tells the truth in plain unvarnished language that can be understood by anyone. His latest missive to his supporters is no different. In it, he lays out the truth about the extremist views of the Koch brothers -- and the fact that they have purchased a political party (the GOP). Here is what he has to say:

As a result of the disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision, billionaires and large corporations can now spend an unlimited amount of money to influence the political process. The results of that decision are clear.  In the coming months and years the Koch brothers and other extraordinarily wealthy families will spend billions of dollars to elect right-wing candidates to the Senate, the House, governors’ mansions and the presidency of the United States. These billionaires already own much of our economy. That, apparently, is not enough.  Now, they want to own the United States government as well.

Four years ago, the Supreme Court passed Citizens United.  A few weeks ago, they passed the equally horrendousMcCutcheon campaign finance decision which gives even more political power to the rich. Now, many Republicans want to push this Supreme Court to go even further.  In the name of “free speech,” they want the Court to eliminate allrestrictions on campaign spending -- a position that Justice Thomas supported in McCutcheon -- and a view supported by the Chairman of the Republican National Committee.  Not surprisingly, as it will give them the opportunity to buy politicians at will, this has always been the position of the Koch brothers.

The Koch brothers are the second wealthiest family in America, making most of their money in the fossil fuel industry.  According to Forbes Magazine, they saw their wealth increase last year from $68 billion to $80 billion.  In other words, under the “anti-business”, “socialist” and “oppressive” Obama administration, their wealth went up by $12 billion in one year. 

In their 2012 campaigns, Barack Obama and Mitt Romney each spent a little more than $1 billion.  For the Koch brothers, spending more than Obama and Romney combined  in an election would be a drop in the bucket.  They would hardly miss the few billion spent. 

Given the reality that the Koch brothers are now the most important and powerful players in American politics, it is important to know what they want and what their agenda is. 

Interestingly and not widely known, David Koch ran as the Libertarian Party’s vice-presidential candidate in 1980.  He believed that Ronald Reagan was much too liberal.  Despite Mr. Koch putting a substantial sum of money into the campaign, his ticket only received one percent of the vote.  Most Americans thought the Libertarian Party’s platform of 1980 was extremist and way out of touch with what the American people wanted and needed.

Fast-forward 34 years and the most significant reality of modern politics is how successful David Koch and like-minded billionaires have been in moving the Republican Party to the extreme right.  Amazingly, much of what was considered “extremist” and “kooky” in 1980 has become part of today’s mainstream Republican thinking.    

Let me give you just a few examples:

In 1980, Libertarian vice-presidential candidate David Koch ran on a platform that called for abolishing the minimum wage.  34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people. 

Today, not only does virtually every Republican in Congress oppose raising the $7.25 an hour minimum wage, many of them, including Republican leaders like Mitch McConnell and John McCain, are on record for abolishing the concept of the federal minimum wage.

In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party favored “the abolition of Medicare and Medicaid programs.”  34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people. 

Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party, as seen in the recently passed Ryan budget, is to end Medicare as we know it, cut Medicaid by more than $1.5 trillion over the next decade, and repeal the Affordable Care Act.  According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, “Under the Ryan plan, at least 40 million people -- 1 in 8 Americans -- would lose health insurance or fail to obtain insurance by 2024. Most of them would be people with low or moderate incomes.”

In 1980, the platform of David Koch’s Libertarian Party called for “the repeal of the fraudulent, virtually bankrupt, and increasingly oppressive Social Security system.”  34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people. 

Today, the mainstream view of the Republican Party is that “entitlement reform” is absolutely necessary.  For some, this means major cuts in Social Security.  For others who believe Social Security is unconstitutional or a Ponzi scheme this means the privatization of Social Security or abolishing this program completely for those who are under 60 years of age.

In 1980, David Koch’s Libertarian Party platform stated “We oppose all personal and corporate income taxation, including capital gains taxes … We support the eventual repeal of all taxation … As an interim measure, all criminal and civil sanctions against tax evasion should be terminated immediately.”  34 years ago, that was an extreme view of a fringe party that had the support of one percent of the American people. 

Today, 75 Republicans in the House have co-sponsored a bill that Paul Ryan has said “would eliminate taxes on wages, corporations, self-employment, capital gains, and gift and death taxes in favor of a personal-consumption tax.”

Here is what every American should be deeply concerned about.  The Koch brothers, through the expenditure of billions of dollars and the creation and support of dozens of extreme right organizations, have taken fringe extremist ideas and made them mainstream within the Republican Party.  And now with Citizens United (which is allowing them to pour unlimited sums of money into the political process) their power is greater than ever.

And let’s be very clear.  Their goal is not only to defund Obamacare, cut Social Security, oppose an increase in the minimum wage or cut federal funding for education.  Their world view and eventual goal is much greater than all of that.  They want to repeal every major piece of legislation that has been signed into law over the past 80 years that has protected the middle class, the elderly, the children, the sick, and the most vulnerable in this country.  Every piece of legislation! 

The truth is that the agenda of the Koch brothers is to move this country from a democratic society with a strong middle class to an oligarchic form of society in which the economic and political life of the nation are controlled by a handful of billionaire families.

Our great nation must not be hijacked by right-wing billionaires like the Koch brothers. 

For the sake of our children and our grandchildren, we must fight back.

Sincerely,
Bernie Sanders
Senator Bernie Sanders


(The image of Bernie Sanders shown above is by DonkeyHotey.)

Campaign Finance

Political Cartoon is by Daryl Cagle at cagle.com.

Facts


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Bernie


Record Amount Of Outside Money Flowing Into The Election


The chart above (from PBS Newshour) shows the shocking results from recent Supreme Court decisions (particularly Citizens United vs. FEC, which ruled that outside groups can spend unlimited amount of money to influence elections in the United States).

2010 was the first off-year election to see a significant amount of outside money being spent. About $23 million was spent in the first quarter of that election year. That pales however to the amount that was spent in the first quarter of 2014 by outside groups -- about $56 million (more than twice as much as was spent in 2010). And this is well before most primaries have been held and the general election season has started. Some are predicting that over $500 million will be spent by outside groups in this election.

As the chart below shows, so far most of that outside money (about $32 million) has been spent in just six states -- North Carolina, Arkansas, Alaska, Louisiana, Kentucky, and Georgia. And twice as much has been spent to support Republicans as was spent to support Democrats.


I believe this is one of the biggest dangers facing our democracy, and it is quickly turning the democrat into a plutocracy (rule by the rich). We need to fix this -- even if it takes a constitutional amendment to do it.

Progress ?

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

Hank Aaron Tells The Truth And The Racists Go Crazy

Baseball Hall of Fame legend Hank Aaron (pictured) was recently asked in an interview with USA Today why he has kept the many racist letters he received after breaking Babe Ruth's home run record. He said:

"To remind myself that we are not that far removed from when I was chasing the record," he said. "If you think that, you are fooling yourself. A lot of things have happened in this country, but we have so far to go. There's not a whole lot that has changed.
"We can talk about baseball. Talk about politics. Sure, this country has a black president, but when you look at a black president, President Obama is left with his foot stuck in the mud from all of the Republicans with the way he's treated. We have moved in the right direction, and there have been improvements, but we still have a long ways to go.
"The bigger difference is back then they had hoods. Now they have neckties and starched shirts."
Mr. Aaron spoke the truth. The racial problems of the United States are far from over. Some progress has been made, but much more remains to be done. And the racists themselves stepped up to prove Mr. Aaron's point. The Atlanta Braves were flooded with letters and comments from racists reacting to Aaron's comments.

This shouldn't come as any surprise to decent Americans. The president's election caused many racists in this country to crawl out from under their rocks, and air their ugly views again (hoping that the election of an African-American president would draw people to their sick cause). The 2012 election dashed their hopes, but it didn't drive them away. They may thinly disguise their racism with code words these days, but they are fooling no one.

All they have done is to expose the racism that still exists in our society, and show us that the fight for equality among the races is far from over. It is now time for the decent people in the United States to rejoin the fight for equality and justice for all. We may not be able to change these sick minds, but we should drive them back under their rocks so they can no longer stand in the way of progress. In fact, it is a moral imperative that we do so.

(The photo of Hank Aaron above is from the website blackfilm.com.)

The Racist Mind

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Democrats Increase Generic Ballot Lead Over Republicans



The charts above were made from information contained in a new McClatchy News / Marist College Poll. That survey questioned a nationwide sample of 1,212 adults between April 7th and 10th, and has a margin of error of about 2.8 points.

This counters the "wisdom" we have been hearing for months now from the political pundits, who have been saying the Republicans have the edge in the upcoming election. And that 6 point advantage the voters currently give the Democrats should give Democrats some confidence -- all is not lost in this election.

This does not mean that the Democrats are guaranteed to win. There are still several months to go, and anything could still happen. But it does mean that if the Democrats work hard and turn out the vote (the most important factor in this election), they have a good chance of flipping the House over to Democratic control. They only need to flip 17 House seats to take control, and there are far more competitive districts than that.