A PROGRESSIVE VOICE FROM THE LLANO ESTACADO

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Wendy


Has Israel Gone Too Far With Latest Attack On Gaza ?


Israel is still continuing its war on Gaza, and so far, more than a thousand inhabitants of Gaza have been killed -- at least a third of them have been children. Israel's excuse for the invasion and killings were to locate and destroy tunnels built by Hamas to allow them to get into Israel. It's hard to understand though how the indiscriminate bombing of Gaza civilians is helping to accomplish that -- including the bombing of a hospital, a U.N. refugee camp, and a group of children playing on the beach.

The American people have always been solidly behind Israel, but I have to wonder if the Israelis haven't gone too far this time -- far enough to start eroding some of that American support. The Pew Research Center also wondered about that, and that did a survey asking Americans whether the Israelis had gone too far with these latest attacks on Gaza. The survey was taken between July 24th and 27th of a random nationwide sample of 1,005 adults, and has a 3.6 point margin of error.

As the chart above shows, the support for this latest Israeli aggression is not absolute. Note that pluralities of Democrats, Blacks, and Hispanics all say that Israel has gone too far this time -- and those between 18 and 29 are split on the matter. About one out of every four Americans (25%) agree with that. Meanwhile 35% say the Israeli action was appropriate.

But the most troubling aspect of the survey is that 15% of Americans (and more of some groups) say the Israelis haven't been harsh enough. Evidently killing nearly 400 children and hundreds of innocent civilians is Ok with them. Keeping Gaza as a giant concentration camp, and depriving its citizens of adequate food and medical supplies is not enough for these folks. They want blood, and they don't care if it's the blood of children or innocents.

Frankly, I'm shocked at the attitude of these people. There is a line beyond which it is just immoral to cross -- and that applies to all countries, even Israel. As horrible as the holocaust against the Jews in World War II was, it doesn't give them the right to slaughter innocents and children in Gaza.

All Hat

Political Cartoon is by John Branch in the San Antonio Express-News.

A Second Appeals Court Supports Same-Sex Marriage


Numerous states have had their bans on same-sex marriages overturned by federal judges in the last few months. Those decisions were appealed to various Circuit Courts of Appeal, and we have been waiting for those appeals court decisions. A few days ago, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on the Utah decision -- and they upheld the lower court decision, declaring the state ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional (violating the Fourteenth Amendment), and the state had not shown a compelling reason to ban those marriages.

Now a second appeals court has ruled on this matter. A three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the lower court decision that Virginia's ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional. Appeals court Judge Henry F. Floyd wrote:

“Civil marriage is one of the cornerstones of our way of life. It allows individuals to celebrate and publicly declare their intentions to form lifelong partnerships, which provide unparalleled intimacy, companionship, emotional support and security.” 
“The choice of whether and whom to marry is an intensely personal decision that alters the course of an individual’s life. Denying same-sex couples this choice prohibits them from participating fully in our society, which is precisely the type of segregation that the 14th Amendment cannot countenance.”
The decision was stayed for 21 days to give the state time to appeal -- either to the full court, or the U.S. Supreme Court (more likely). Now the Supreme Court is looking at decisions from both the 10th and 4th Circuit Courts of Appeal, both of which they are likely to be asked to consider.

I expect the Supreme Court to wait for a while before deciding whether to accept any of these cases or not, to see what happens in some of the other Circuit Courts of Appeal. If the other appeals courts decide the same way (that same-sex marriage bans are unconstitutional), they could just let those decisions stand and become law. But if even one appeals court decides to uphold the bans, then the Supreme Court will have to accept at least one case and finally make a decision on this matter.

I am hopeful, considering the court's decision about DOMA and Prop 8, that at least five votes can be attained to support equal rights and toss out all state bans on same-sex marriage. And by this time next year, that could be a reality.

No Leadership ?

Political cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Hagan's Lead Growing In North Carolina Senate Race



A few months ago it looked like Democratic incumbent Senator Kay Hagan might be in trouble in North Carolina. In May, Hagan led by only 2 points -- which is a dead heat since the margin of error was more than that. By June, she had posted a lead of 5 points (which exceeded that margin of error) -- and in the latest poll taken in North Caroline, she has extended her lead to 7 points (41% to 34%). It's starting to look like North Carolina may not be the opportunity that Republicans once thought it was.

Hagan leads among women, Blacks, other races, and all age groups under 66. Independents and those over 66 are within the margin of error. The only groups giving Tillis a significant advantage are Whites (by 10 points) and men (by 4 points).

These charts were made from a recent survey done by Public Policy Polling. The survey was done between July 17th and 20th of a random sample of 1,062 North Carolina voters, and has a 3 point margin of error.

Whatever

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at carlsontoons.com.

Why Isn't The Corporate Media Reporting This Story ?

This image is of the mushroom cloud produced by the nuclear bomb dropped on Nagasaki at the end of World War II. It is also the image that Republican neo-cons are using to drum up support for a war with Iran.

For a couple of years now, they have been trying to scare Americans with the image of Iran with nuclear weapons. They want us to believe that Iran is in the process of building nuclear weapons, and when they succeed, they will pose a danger to the United States -- even though they have no way of delivering such a weapon that far.

They have used this fear of a nuclear weapon- possessing Iran to build up the military budget even more (although we were already spending 45% of the total money spent on military budgets worldwide, and more than the next 15 biggest spenders combined). They want us to believe we have to spend this money and attack Iran, or we will face nuclear devastation.

But if Iran was really such a threat in the recent past, enough to make many Republicans (and some deluded Democrats) call for a new war, then I have to wonder why the following story hasn't been widely reported by the U.S. media. The BBC considered it important enough to be front page news. Here is what they reported:

Iran has turned all of its enriched uranium closest to the level needed to make nuclear arms into more harmless forms, the UN nuclear agency says.
The conversion of its stock of 20%-enriched uranium was part of a deal to curb Iran's nuclear programme.
The US said last week it would unblock $2.8bn in frozen Iranian funds in return for Iran's compliance.
A four-month extension to talks on Iran's nuclear ambitions was agreed on Friday between Iran and world powers.
The talks are aimed at persuading Iran to limit its nuclear programme in exchange for the lifting of sanctions.
The six world powers involved in the talks - the US, France, China, Russia, Germany and the UK - suspect Iran seeks atomic weapons, which Iran denies.
The country insists that it is enriching uranium for use in nuclear power stations and for medical purposes.
Correspondents say Iran's completion of eliminating its most worrying uranium stockpile is a promising sign that its leaders do not want to derail the diplomatic process.
A new report from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says Iran is observing all of its other commitments as well.
Iran had more than 200kg of 20%-enriched uranium when the preliminary agreement to convert it was reached last November.
At 20%, enriched uranium can be converted quickly to arm a nuclear weapon and experts said 200kg was enough to make one nuclear warhead.
But while the story was widely reported in Europe and Australia, it has been ignored by the corporate media in the United States. Why? Doesn't it seem like the prospect of peace, of avoiding a costly war with Iran, should be big news -- especially considering all the coverage of the possible nuclear weapons program in Iran?

Could it be that the corporations in the military-industrial complex don't want the story reported (because Americans might come to their senses and demand the bloated military budget be cut)? Could it be because it doesn't fit the narrative being proposed by the Republicans (and their corporate backers), and might hurt their chances in the upcoming election?

This is a prime example of what's wrong with our major media outlets. They only give us the stories approved by their corporate owners. Truth in reporting and good investigative reporting are things of the past -- things that are not tolerated in a media owned by only a few giant corporations (who are only interested in protecting their own interests (and the politicians they have bought).

Regret

Political Cartoon is by Nick Anderson in the Houston Chronicle.

Disgusting


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Arrogant And Ignorant Hypocrties


Gun Ownership In The United States



The NRA and right-wing gun-nuts have been saying that gun ownership is necessary to be free and for protection from criminal elements in this country. If those arguments were even remotely true, then it would be safe to say that most Americans either currently keep a gun in their home, or would like to do that. But that is simply not true.

The truth is that we live in one of the safest countries in the world, and keeping a gun in the home heightens the chance that someone in that home will die from use of a firearm (either by accident, suicide, or a domestic murder) -- and most Americans know that. There was a time in the past when most households owned a gun, but that time is long-passed.

As both the General Social Survey and the Pew Research Center survey (done in January and February of this year) show, only about a third of American households have a gun (34%). Gun ownership has dropped in each of the last several decades, and while there are about enough guns in our society for every citizen to have one, the truth is that that more than 300 million guns are owned by only a third of the population -- which means a lot of gun owners own several guns, while two-thirds of all Americans do not own or keep a gun in their home.

The chart above shows the demographic breakdown of gun ownership in the United States. Note that men, Whites, Republicans, Independents, those over age 50, those living in suburban and rural areas, and those living in the South and Midwest, and those with a child in the home, exceed the national average in gun ownership. While women, Blacks, Hispanics, those under age 50, Democrats, those living in an urban area, and those living in the Northeast and West, have an ownership percentage at or below the national average.

Wrecking Ball

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Race For Governor In Georgia Is Currently A Dead Heat


Now that the primaries are over in Georgia, it is starting to look like Georgia might not be as red a state as in the past. It seems to be becoming a nice shade of purple (meaning that both parties are now competitive in that state).

A few days ago I posted about a recent poll in the U.S. Senate race in Georgia between Michelle Nunn (D) and David Perdue (R). That survey showed the Democrat leading that race right now, and has a real chance to snatch this senate seat away from the Republicans.

Now there is a new poll out on the governor's race in Georgia. It shows Democrat Jason Carter with a one point lead over incumbent Republican Nathan Deal. That 1 point lead is within the poll's margin of error, meaning the race is currently a dead heat. But it also means the Democrat has a chance to win this race -- something that no one would have predicted a few months ago.

This information is from a new Rasmussen Poll -- taken on July 23rd and 24th of 750 likely Georgia voters. It has a margin of error of 4 points.

Lethal Injections

Political Cartoon is by Joe Heller in the Green Bay Press-Gazette.

New York Times Supports The Legalization Of Marijuana


This is big news. Polls have shown that a majority of Americans now support the legalization of marijuana for recreational use by adults, but the media has been very reticent to either report or support that idea. That has now changed. The nation's largest newspaper, the New York Times, has published an editorial supporting the legalization of marijuana in this country. Here is what the NY Times editorial board published:

It took 13 years for the United States to come to its senses and end Prohibition, 13 years in which people kept drinking, otherwise law-abiding citizens became criminals and crime syndicates arose and flourished. It has been more than 40 years since Congress passed the current ban on marijuana, inflicting great harm on society just to prohibit a substance far less dangerous than alcohol.
The federal government should repeal the ban on marijuana.
We reached that conclusion after a great deal of discussion among the members of The Times’s Editorial Board, inspired by a rapidly growing movement among the states to reform marijuana laws.
There are no perfect answers to people’s legitimate concerns about marijuana use. But neither are there such answers about tobacco or alcohol, and we believe that on every level — health effects, the impact on society and law-and-order issues — the balance falls squarely on the side of national legalization. That will put decisions on whether to allow recreational or medicinal production and use where it belongs — at the state level.
We considered whether it would be best for Washington to hold back while the states continued experimenting with legalizing medicinal uses of marijuana, reducing penalties, or even simply legalizing all use. Nearly three-quarters of the states have done one of these.
But that would leave their citizens vulnerable to the whims of whoever happens to be in the White House and chooses to enforce or not enforce the federal law.
The social costs of the marijuana laws are vast. There were 658,000 arrests for marijuana possession in 2012, according to F.B.I. figures, compared with 256,000 for cocaine, heroin and their derivatives. Even worse, the result is racist, falling disproportionately on young black men, ruining their lives and creating new generations of career criminals.
There is honest debate among scientists about the health effects of marijuana, but we believe that the evidence is overwhelming that addiction and dependence are relatively minor problems, especially compared with alcohol and tobacco. Moderate use of marijuana does not appear to pose a risk for otherwise healthy adults. Claims that marijuana is a gateway to more dangerous drugs are as fanciful as the “Reefer Madness” images of murder, rape and suicide.
There are legitimate concerns about marijuana on the development of adolescent brains. For that reason, we advocate the prohibition of sales to people under 21.
Creating systems for regulating manufacture, sale and marketing will be complex. But those problems are solvable, and would have long been dealt with had we as a nation not clung to the decision to make marijuana production and use a federal crime.
In coming days, we will publish articles by members of the Editorial Board and supplementary material that will examine these questions. We invite readers to offer their ideas, and we will report back on their responses, pro and con.
We recognize that this Congress is as unlikely to take action on marijuana as it has been on other big issues. But it is long past time to repeal this version of Prohibition.

This chart was made with information from the Pew Research Center.

Truth

Political Cartoon is by Dan Piraro at bizarro.com.

Common Sense Produces Results



Monday, July 28, 2014

Santana On Peace


Exposing The Republicans' National Debt Lie



I recently saw a comment from a Republican on Facebook that said President Obama had added more to the national debt than all presidents combined from George Washington through George W. Bush. This is a common Republican misrepresentation, and it is time it was exposed as the lie that it really is.

The best way to look at this is to consider the percentage of rise in the national debt each president was responsible for after taking office. And when you look at it that way, President Obama has presided over less growth in debt than any of the last four Republican presidents. The growth in national debt under Obama is 44% -- while the growth under the GOP presidents are Ford (47%), Reagan (186%), Bush I (54%), and Bush II (101%). The other presidents during that stretch were Carter (43%) and Clinton (32%).

Conservatives like to paint themselves as fiscally responsible, but the two most conservative presidents since World War II have been the presidents who were responsible for the largest percentage growth in national debt -- Ronald Reagan raised the national debt by 186% and George W. Bush raised it by 101%. They were the only two presidents who raised the debt by more than 54%.

And even if you just consider the dollar growth of the national debt, President Obama is still not the president with the largest growth. That dubious honor goes to George W. Bush, who increased the national debt by 5.849 trillion dollars. President Obama is second, with 5.081 trillion dollars in growth. However, the Republicans must take much of the blame for that since they have blocked any attempt the president has made to change the disastrous spending policies of George W. Bush.

Obama inherited a nation in recession -- with government revenues sharply off because of the Bush tax cuts and millions of people out of work. The spending was also out of control with two unnecessary wars being waged and poverty rising because of the recession and loss of jobs (including the outsourcing of jobs to other countries.

Obama has tried to do away with the tax breaks for outsourcing, but has been blocked by the Republicans. He has also tried to restore the tax revenue, but was only able to restore a part of it (which has brought down the budget deficit). The rich are still able to pay a smaller percentage by taking advantage of special lower capital gains tax rates, instead of the higher earned income tax rates (the rates paid by the middle and working classes). And the Republicans have also blocked efforts to create jobs (which would have stimulated the economy and increased revenues).

In short, the Republicans have done everything they can to sabotage the economy by continuing the terrible Bush economic policies -- and now they want to blame that on President Obama. It is not just a lie -- it is a mean-spirited lie that tries to shift the blame off of their own poor policies and mismanagement.

The truth is that the Republicans are not fiscally responsible. They are the biggest spenders. They just use that spending to help the rich instead of those hurting Americans who really need it. I agree that we need more fiscal responsibility in Washington -- but we won't get that by putting another Republican in the White House, or by letting the Republicans continue to control either house of Congress.

Dream Candidate (For Comedians)

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

Which Countries Like Us - And Which Ones Don't ?



The charts above were made from the Spring Pew Research Center's Global Attitudes Survey. They surveyed 1,000 or more people in 43 different countries about their attitudes toward the United States (either favorable or unfavorable). The margin of error for the survey is about 3.5 points. The charts show the percentage of each countries population that holds a favorable view of the United States -- and include the 15 countries with the highest and lowest percentages.

There were some surprises for me. Most notably was the absence of the United Kingdom from the chart showing the highest favorable percentage. We normally think of them as being our best ally and closest friend, but evidently they don't see us the same way. Only 66% in the United Kingdom had a favorable opinion of the United States -- significantly lower than Italy (78%) and France (75%). Spain also failed to make the top 15 list -- coming in at only about 60%.

Three other nations were also surprises. Most Americans consider Germany, Greece, and India to be friends -- but all three nations were among the 15 nations with the lowest opinion of the United States. Only slightly more than half of those in Germany (51%) and India (55%) had a favorable opinion, and only about a third of those in Greece (34%) had a favorable opinion.Other nation's with a surprisingly low percentage were Mexico (63%), Japan (66%), Brazil (65%), Colombia (64%), and Argentina (36%).

China, considered to be an enemy by many Americans, was a pleasant surprise. About half of the Chinese (51%) have a favorable opinion of the United States. But the biggest surprise of all was Vietnam, where slightly more than three out of every four citizens (76%) viewed the U.S. favorably. Evidently, many of them have forgiven us for the Vietnam War.

For Your Enjoyment

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

The 2014 Tour de France Is Over


The final stage of the Tour de France each year is largely a celebration ride -- until it reaches the streets of Paris, when it turns into a final chance for the sprinters to earn points for the Green Jersey. The winner of the final sprint in stage 21 was Marcel Kittel of Germany. Alexander Kristoff of Norway finished second, and Ramunas Navardauskas of Lithuania was third across the line.

Here are the winners in each category (the podium finishers):

----------------------------------------

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Race Leader)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team
2. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale
3. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR


-----------------------------------


GREEN JERSEY (Best Sprinter)
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Cannondale
2. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Team Katusha
3. Bryan Coquard (France) Team Europcar



-----------------------------------


POLKA DOT JERSEY (Best Climber)
1. Rafal Majka (Poland) Tinkoff-Saxo
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) Team Katusha


-----------------------------------


WHITE JERSEY (Best Young Rider)
1. Thibaut Pinot (France) FDJ.FR
2. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step

-----------------------------------


TEAM STANDINGS
1. AG2R La Mondiale (France)
2. Belkin Pro Cycling (Belgium)
3. Movistar Team (Spain)

Sign Of Violence

Political Cartoon is by Gary Varvel in the Indianapolis Star.

Capitalism Won't Work Without Rules


Sunday, July 27, 2014

Evolution

(This cartoon is from the website teddytietz.com.)

The Election Of President Obama Exposed The Racist Extremism Of The Republican Party Base (And Officials)

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) has always had a knack for getting to the heart of a matter, and exposing the truth. This is what he had to say in an interview with Larry King:

"I would say my main criticism of Barack Obama is that he seemed to think when he came in, and in the ensuing years, that he could negotiate with right-wing extremists who really had no intention of ever negotiating. When you’re in politics, Larry -- and I’ve been in politics a while -- negotiation is part of what politics is about. But you cannot negotiate with people who refuse to negotiate, who really want to politically destroy you."

Sanders is exactly right. The right-wing in this country, driven by a lot of racism, has tried to label President Obama as some kind of socialistic tyrant. That is ridiculous. President Obama is now, and always has been, a moderate (in the tradition of Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter). He is also a nice person. But he was more than a little naive when he took office.

President Obama actually thought that that if he reached out in a friendly way to Republicans, and promoted moderate policies, then common ground could be found and compromises reached that would be good for the country. After all, that is what has happened in the past. Take President Clinton for example. He had to deal with a Republican Congress, but by pursuing moderate policies and reaching across the aisle to cooperate with Republicans, compromises were found that benefitted the country and kept the economy going (creating over 20 million jobs).

But President Obama underestimated the depth of racial hatred in the GOP's base -- an irrational fear of having an African-American president. And that racism filtered up and affected the congressional Republicans. Those on the extreme right immediately made the decision to oppose everything the president tried to do -- even if it was a moderate idea originally created by members of their own party, like the Affordable Care Act (which was created by Republican senators as an alternative to Hillary Clinton's health care reform plan). Even those few moderates in the party found they could not compromise with the president without angering their base, and capitulated.

I wish the president had realized earlier, as many progressives did, the true depth of hatred that the GOP racists had for him. If he had, maybe he could have pushed harder, and gotten more done, in the first couple of years of his administration, when he had a Democratic majority. But he didn't. He was just too nice and too decent, and still believed that rational people could find compromises. He did not understand at the time that rationality no longer existed in the Republican Party, but had been replaced by racial hatred.

When the president was elected, there were those who said it indicated the nation was entering a post-racial period. They were wrong. What it did was expose the large amount of racism that still plagues this country.

(The image above was found at Mother Jones.)

Publicity Seeker

Political Cartoon is by John Branch at branchtoon.com.

GOP Incumbent Is Trailing In Kansas Governor's Race


The state of Kansas is traditionally a Republican state. They have had 45 different governors, and only 11 of them have been Democrats (while 2 were Populists and the other 32 have been Republicans). But it looks like they could be getting ready to elect their 12th Democratic governor. The latest poll on the governor's race in Kansas shows Democrat Paul Davis with an 8 point lead over incumbent Republican Governor Sam Brownback.

These results are from the KSN-TV / SurveyUSA Poll done between July 17th and 22nd of a random sample of 2,400 Kansas adults, with a 2.9 point margin of error.

The main reason for this is because of the way Brownback (a former senator) has screwed up the state government. Being one of those who defended the disastrous GOP trifle-down policies on the federal level, Brownback decided to take those same policies to the state level when he became governor. He drastically cut taxes for the rich and the corporations. That was supposed to stimulate the state's economy -- but all it did was lower state revenues so much that even cutting government programs could not cover the shortfall. Now the state is in trouble and struggling to pay its bills.

When are the Republicans going to realize that giving more money to the rich and corporations doesn't stimulate the economy or create jobs. It just fattens the already bulging bank accounts of the rich and corporations.

(Image is from the Facebook page of US Uncut.)

No Backbone

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

Most Americans Oppose Lawsuit Or Impeachment By GOP





These charts were made from information contained in a recent CNN / ORC Poll. That survey was done between July 18th and 20th of a random national sample of 1,012 adults, and has a margin of error of 3 points (8.5 points or less for the individual groups).

The Republican Party in most states is now controlled by a combination of teabaggers and evangelicals, and this has pushed its elected representatives in Washington far to the right. And to please that extremist base, congressional Republicans have blocked any effort by President Obama to fix the economy, raise wages, repair our crumbling infrastructure, and create badly needed new jobs.

But even this total obstruction and refusal to compromise with Democrats on anything has not satisfied the party's extremist base -- a feeling based on those voters' unhappiness with an African-American inhabiting the White House. These base voters are demanding that their congressional representatives do even more to oppose the president -- and those representatives, in an effort to avoid facing a teabagger opponent in the primaries, have responded with a couple of ridiculous ideas.

The first is to file a lawsuit against President Obama. This suit alleges the president has failed to enforce all the provisions of Obamacare. The crazy part is that they are claiming he has not enforced a law that they have opposed since it was passed -- and have tried to repeal more than 40 times. The suit has no merit, but they aren't really serious about it anyway -- but only trying to keep their base happy by causing problems for the president.

The other idea is to impeach the president, and more congressional Republicans are talking about this than ever before. Of course, there is no basis for this since the president has done nothing that would justify his impeachment. But like the lawsuit, these Republicans know they could not impeach the president and are only talking it up to please their extremist and racist base.

But while these ideas may play well in the party primaries, they are not going to help them in the general election. That's because, as the charts above show, a substantial majority of Americans oppose both the lawsuit and impeachment. I think the Republicans are just shooting themselves in the foot again (a foot already riddled with bullet holes), and these crazy ideas may well hurt the party in the general election. This just gives Democrats more unpopular ideas to campaign against.

Forward, Then Backward

Political Cartoon is by Jack Ohman in the Sacramento Bee.

Nibali Seals His Tour Win In The Stage 20 Time Trial


Stage 20 of this year's Tour de France was the race's only time trial (where the riders start 30 seconds apart and race only against the clock). The fastest rider to finish the hilly 54 kilometer course was Tony Martin of Germany. Tom Dumoulin of the Netherlands finished in second, and Jan Barta of the Czech Republic was the third place finisher.

Vicenzo Nibali of Italy sealed his overall first place finish in this year's Tour by placing fourth in the stage 20 time trial -- ahead of all his closest competitors. His team should be able to easily protect his lead on the ride into Paris in stage 21 (the final stage). Here are the current standings:

YELLOW JERSEY (Overall Race Leader)
1. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team
2. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........7' 52"
3. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........8' 24"
4. Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spain) Movistar Team..........9' 55"
5. Tejay Van Garderen (United States) BMC Racing..........11' 44"
6. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........11' 46"
7. Leopold Konig (Czech Republic) Team Netapp-Endura..........14' 41"
8. Haimar Zubeldia Agirre (Spain) Trek Factory Racing..........18' 12"
9. Laurens Ten Dam (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........18' 20"
10. Bauke Mollema (Netherlands) Belkin Pro Cycling..........21' 24"

GREEN JERSEY (Best Sprinter)
1. Peter Sagan (Slovakia) Cannondale..........417 pts
2. Bryan Coquard (France) Team Europcar..........253 pts
3. Alexander Kristoff (Norway) Team Katusha..........247 pts
4. Mark Renshaw (Australia) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........189 pts
5. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........182 pts
6. Marcel Kittel (Germany) Team Giant-Shimano..........177 pts 

POLKA DOT JERSEY (Best Climber)
1. Rafal Majka (Poland) Tinkoff-Saxo..........181 pts
2. Vincenzo Nibali (Italy) Astana Pro Team..........168 pts
3. Joaquim Rodriguez (Spain) Team Katusha..........112 pts 
4. Thibaut Pinot (France) FDJ.FR..........89 pts 
5. Jean-Christophe Peraud (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........85 pts
6. Alessandro De Marchi (Italy) Cannondale..........78 pts

WHITE JERSEY (Best Young Rider)
1. Thibaud Pinot (France) FDJ.FR
2. Romain Bardet (France) AG2R La Mondiale..........3' 22"
3. Michal Kwiatkowski (Poland) Omega Pharma-Quick Step..........1h 12' 25"

TEAM STANDINGS
1. AG2R La Mondiale (France)
2. Belkin Pro Cycling (Belgium)..........34' 44"
3. Movistar Team (Spain)..........1h 5' 44"
4. BMC Racing (United States)..........1h 8' 09" 
5. Team Europcar (France)..........1h 34' 58"

Illegal Alien

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

Your Boss And His Bible