Saturday, July 2, 2016

Gun ownership down; Guns owned at record high

Yes, you read that right.   Several polls and surveys show a significant decline in the percent of adults who own a gun or live with someone who does.   CBS News just released its poll that shows 36% of U.S. adults personally own a gun or live in a household with a gun.   That is the lowest rate since CBS began this poll in 1978, and it is 17% lower than the highest point in 1994.

Other surveys chart similar declines in the number of people with guns:   one shows a 10% decline since 1994;  another has a 20% drop since the mid-1970s.

But we also know that there is a record high in the number of guns in the U.S.   It was a big news item recently when the number of firearms in the U.S. surpassed the population -- meaning more than one gun for each adult and each child.

So . . . somebody is buying a lot of guns.  But it's a smaller and smaller number of buyers buying more and more guns.  One measure is the FBI's background checks;  another is gun manufacturers' records.   The 2016 CBS survey estimates that the average gun owner now owns approximately 8 firearms -- compared to 6.6 in 2004 -- and that roughly 1 in 5 owners has 10 or more gunsThis was reported in the Washington Post by Christopher Ingraham, who concludes:
"Survey data showing declining gun ownership suggest that the NRA has been successful largely by channeling the energy and intensity of an existing gun-owning base, rather than by broadening that base and bringing more supporters into the fold."

Think about what this means.   Guns don't vote.   People do.    We need to start letting politicians know we're on to the scam -- and letting voters know they can do something about gun violence.   Ignore the propaganda paid for by the NRA and spouted by its minions and spineless, bought politicians.   Rise up, people -- and vote your conscience.  We may not be able to vote guns out, but we can vote the NRA-bought politicians out of office.


Friday, July 1, 2016

Hillary should "go big" on democracy reform -- Robert Reich

Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor under President Bill Clinton, wrote an article urging Hillary Clinton to "go big" on policies to reform our democracy.   Here are some excerpts:
*   *   * 
". . . . So far, [Clinton has] put forth a bunch of respectable policy ideasBut they’re small relative to the economic problems most Americans face and to Americans’ overwhelming sense the nation is off track. 

"She needs a big idea that gives her candidacy a purpose and rationale — and, if she’s elected president, a mandate to get something hugely important done.  What could that big idea be?   I can think of several big economic proposals. The problem is they couldn’t get through Congress - even if, as now seems possible, Democrats retake the Senate. Nor, for that matter, could Hillary’s smaller ideas get through.

"Which suggests a really big idea — an idea that’s the prerequisite for every other one, an idea that directly addresses what’s disturbing so many Americans today — an idea that, if she truly commits herself to it, would even reassure voters about Hillary Clinton herself.

"The big idea I’m talking about is democracy.

"Everyone knows our democracy is drowning under big money. . . .  almost 80 percent of Americans think . . . big money’s political influence has rigged the economic system in favor of those at the top. . . .  Which has fueled this year’s anti-establishment rebellions . . . .  A study . . . took a close look at 1,799 policy issues, determining the relative influence on them of economic elites, business groups, and average citizens.

"Their conclusion: 'The preferences of average Americans appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy. Instead, lawmakers respond to the policy demands of wealthy individuals and big business. . . . 

"Clinton should focus her campaign on reversing all of this.   For a start, she should commit to nominating Supreme Court justices who will strike down 'Citizen’s United,'. . .   fight for public financing of general elections for president and for congress . . . . demand full disclosure of all sources of campaign funding, [and] . . . . slow the revolving door . . . between high-level government service and lobbying or corporate jobs, and a similar interval between serving as a top executive or director of a major Wall Street bank and serving at a top level position in the executive branch.

"Will Hillary Clinton make restoring democracy her big idea?  When she announced her candidacy she said 'the deck is stacked in favor of those at the top' and that she wants to be the 'champion' of 'everyday Americans.'  The best way to ensure everyday Americans get a fair deal is to make our democracy work again."

*   *   * 
Bernie Sanders would have tried to do all this.  The problem with Reich's suggestion is this:   If, as he says, Clinton's "small ideas" couldn't get through congress, how does he think she will get this "big idea" passed?    I'm all for it.   I think Clinton might be too.  In fact, she has said some of this.  But can she actually get it done?   And is it worth the try, even if she can't?  It's the old conundrum of idealism vs pragmatism.

The answer, of course, lies in electing Democratic majorities in both the House and Senate.  I think, along with Sanders, that her best chance of doing that is to go for this Big Idea.   I believe the voters will respond.    It would certainly bring in more Sanders voters;  but, to do that, she needs to make a stronger commitment and convince us that she will really buck all those big donors and Wall Street interests who have backed her.  I hope she means it.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

$7 million taxpayer dollars wasted by Republicans trying to find something to pin on Hillary Clinton.

As reported by Michael McAuliff of Huffington Post:
"After spending more than two years and $7 million, the House Select Committee on Benghazi released a report Tuesday that found — like eight investigations before it — no evidence of wrongdoing by then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton or other members of the Obama administration."
Republicans just could not accept the fact that there was nothing to find that they could use to damage Clinton politically.  Surely, there must be something.   There had to be.   They just needed a dedicated investigator to find it.    Enter Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) and his committee, which was touted as bipartisan -- but proved to be so in name only.

Democratic members of the committee were shut out of private hearings, not allowed to even propose witnesses of their own.  Time and again the ranking Democrat, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) protested, loudly in committee meetings, as well as by letter to the chair.  They even considered resigning from the committee in protest but, in the end, decided it was better to have the little access they did have as committee members.

When Hillary Clinton finally testified -- in an open, public nearing (as she had demanded, so they couldn't distort her testimony), she was a rock of strength and consistency for 11 whole hours.   Her steady performance probably helped her politically more than the investigation hurt.   Even Chairman Gowdy admitted that they had not learned anything new.

In the end, this long, costly, politically-motivated investigation failed to find any evidence of wrong-doing.   Yes, there was inadequate security at the Benghazi outpost, but it was Republicans who had cut security budgets for such facilities.    The response to the terrorist attacks was inadequate and flawed, but there was nothing that could have been done, the night of the attack, that could have saved those who lost their lives.

It seems, according to McAuliff's article, that the Republicans actually failed even in their undisguised partisan crusade to harm Clinton's campaign.  David Bozell, the head of the Republican group ForAmerica, commented:
". . .  I find it incomprehensible and insulting that this Committee spent two years and $7 million in taxpayer dollars to release an 800-page report with no firm findings or conclusions. . . .  Congressional Republicans . . . have wasted everyone’s time and money, plain and simple. . . .  Hillary Clinton is sure to take a victory lap today due to the fecklessness of the Majority on this committee.”
That is a Republican speaking.   Of course, he's furious because they didn't find something to smear Clinton with.   Nevertheless, it points up the "fecklessness" and failure of this debacle . . . from whatever perspective.   That was utterly predictable -- and it was predicted.

And, by the way, as far as the committee being bipartisan:   They didn't even put up a charadeit was simply a sheer power grabThe Republican chair did not even allow the Democrats to participate in the final report.  They weren't even allowed to see copies of it until after the media had had it for several hours.   I am outraged.   But not surprised -- except by their blatancy.   Forget bipartisan.  Republicans abandoned any pretense of decorum or fairness . . . or decency.

But we can gloat over two things:   This expensive boondoggle was a political failure for the House Republicans;  they now deserve the shame they brought.   And Trey Gowdy did incalculable damage to his once-promising political future.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Here's the Clinton-Warren picture I wanted to post

photo from Associated Press This photo was taken at a campaign event in Cincinnati.    Looks like pretty good "chemistry" between these two powerful women.

SCOTUS doubles down on its decision in the Texas anti-abortion law

A day after rendering the most sweeping overturn of anti-abortion laws in 24 years, SCOTUS reinforced that landmark decision by declining to hear the appeals of similar laws in Wisconsin and Mississippi.    This lets stand the rulings of the appeals courts, which had said those laws violate the constitution, just as they did in the Texas case.

The Court has spoken -- loud and clear.  You cannot impose egregious, undue burdens on women's right of access to safe, legal abortion.   So quit trying all these incremental ploys under the guise of "protecting women's health."   It's sneaky and it's a sham.   Now SCOTUS has exposed these devious tactics for what they are.


Did the Clinton-Warren joint appearance in Cincinnati show sufficient "chemistry"?

In my recent post about VP choices for Hillary Clinton, I said that Elizabeth Warren is my first choice -- but it really depends on the relationship between the two of them.    There have been rumors that there is tension, and people point out that Warren didn't endorse her until after she had become the presumptive nominee.  I have some concerns about whether her exuberant personality and her own agenda could tolerate playing second fiddle to Hillary.

So Monday's joint appearance on the campaign trail in Cincinnati was considered a way to try that out -- that is, outside speculators like me considered it that.   Who knows what the insiders thought?   It may have already been decided one way or another.   But at any rate, it was a much awaited event.    Several pictures of the pair in action together seem to say things could not have gone better.   Hillary seemed energized and all smiles, and it looked like genuine pleasure.  It looked like good chemistry.

The visuals were astounding and historic:   this power-pair of strong women set to take on the misogynistic, narcissistic, man-boy that's the presumptive nominee they would face.

Nothing says "women-power" more strongly than some images from this rally.  There's one picture in particular that I wanted to share hereI literally spent hours trying to copy it and paste here (as I often have done) but my blog server has decided to go for a higher level of security -- and it no longer allows me to post copied photos from the internet, or at least I haven't figured out how to overcome the security block.   [see photo above]

Warren gave a strong introduction of Clinton -- and nothing either of tbem said about policies seemed to be at all out of sync.   So it'll be interesting to see where this goes from here.    More joint appearances?   Warren will be a terrific campaigner for Clinton, whether as VP or not.  And she will be an invaluable ally, either in the senate or down the hall in the White House.

Frankly, I'd like to have these two women heading up our government -- just as I wish we had a majority of women in congress.   I'm told that that's the secret of the extensive family friendly policies in Norway is that the majority of the Norwegian Parliament is made up of women.


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Wendy Davis -- the filibustering Texas legislator is vindicated by SCOTUS decision

Wendy Davis in 2013.jpegPhoto from Wikipedia
Remember in 2013, when the Texas legislature was trying to pass the most restrictive anti-abortion bills, whose requirements would result in closing the majority of the clinics in the state?   And remember the gutsy woman legislator in the pink sneakers who stood and talked for 11 hours without stopping for anything?

That was Rep. Wendy Davis, a divorced single mother who put herself through college and then made it through Harvard Law School.    Her filibuster was the major factor in running out the clock on the legislative session;   but the bill came back in the next session and was passed.   Davis then ran for governor in 2015, but lost to a Republican.

The laws that SCOTUS overturned yesterday were what Wendy Davis spent 11 hours trying to block by talking.  She deserves to take a victory lap . . . or two . . . or 11.


The significance of SCOTUS overturning the Texas anti-abortion cases

Yesterday, the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional two Texas anti-abortion laws that were so restrictive that already 22 of 40 clinics that provide safe, legal abortion in the state of Texas closed just on the basis of one of the laws that had gone into effect.   That was the one that required any doctor performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles.

And if the other one, which required facilities to be equipped as surgical centers, was allowed to go into effect, it's estimated that only 7 or 8 clinics in all of Texas would have survived.

The 5 to 3 majority opinion, written by Justice Steven Breyer, was clear and direct.   In effect, it called the bluff of Texas, which tried to claim that this was done to protect the health of women.   Justice Breyer pointed out that they had not introduced one shred of evidence to show this.   In fact, in the oral arguments, Texas' attorney was asked directly;  and he had to admit that they did not have one single case to show that a woman failed to get the medical treatment she needed because of the facility.

It's not just that these laws were unnecessary for women's health;  they actually harm women's health.    When so many clinics have to close, it means that women have to travel far from home, wait longer, and lack the support they would have closer to home.  Even in many cases, women resort to unsafe methods, because they lack ready access to good care.

Nancy Northup, President of the Center for Reproductive Rights, told Chris Hayes on MSNBC that "The Court restored the promise of Roe v. Wade for the next generation of women;" and it did so by renewing the decision in the Casey case from 24 years ago that said such laws cannot put "an undue burden" on a woman' right to choose.


SCOTUS hands pro-choice a huge victory

The Supreme Court saved one of its most significant decisions of the term for the end.    By a 5 to 3 majority (Kennedy joining the four liberals) the Texas abortion law was declared unconstitutional.

Justice Breyer wrote the majority opinion, the gist of which is this:
Both the admitting privileges and surgical center requirements place a substantial obstacle in the path of women seeking a pre-viability abortion, constitute an undue burden on abortion access, and thus violate the Constitution.
This was the law that would close most abortion clinics in the state of Texas, meaning women in large parts of the state would have to travel hundreds of miles to find a facility. Experts have said that neither requirement is medically necessary.  First-term abortions are far safer, with fewer complications, than some other procedures allowed to be carried out in doctors' offices and clinics, such as tonsillectomies and colonoscopies.   Clearly, the law was part of the relentless political effort to impose a religious belief on the law of our land.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg concurred with Breye's opinion, adding her own paragraph that warned lawmakers that any laws like this one that "do little or nothing for health, but rather strew impediments to abortion," will not survive judicial review.


Monday, June 27, 2016

New poll: Clinton with 12% lead

A Washington Post/ABC News poll just released on Sunday gives Hillary Clinton a 51% to 39% lead over  Donald Trump.   This is a 14 point turn-around from the same polling outfit a month ago -- a 7 point gain for Clinton and 7 point slide for Trump.

Surge in Latino voter registration in Georgia

We've been hearing about the surge in Latinos registering to vote in states like California, Nevada, and Colorado.   But it's happening all over.   The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported on Thursday that in Georgia, with only 2% Hispanic population, 16,000+ registered to vote between last October and April.   That's an increase of nearly 20% over the usual rate.   This surge will likely increase as we get closer to the November election.

The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials projects that 13.1 million Latino-identified voters will cast ballots in the November election.   Republicans continue to whistle past the graveyard, claiming that their policies appeal more to Hispanics than do the Democrats' policies;  so they expect to do very well with this demographic.

They should listen to their presumptive standard bearer, Mr. Donald Trump.  Not to his empty boast that "The Hispanics love me," but to the anti-immigrant policies and derogatory comments he makes about Mexicans and immigrants in general.   He is the spark igniting this surge to register -- so they can vote against him.


Clinton's VP short list has three names on it

The Associated Press reported that three people have been contacted by the Clinton VP vetting team to set up interviews.   They are:

   Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).   Her progressive credentials and her appeal as a campaigner and as an attack dog against Trump are well known.   Three potential drawbacks:   Most important is:  How do she and Clinton get along personally?  Would her exuberant style overshadow Clinton;  would her own agenda be in conflict with Clinton's?  On the other hand, maybe it's Warren, more than Sanders, who is influencing Clinton in more progressive positions.   We'll get a preview of that when they campaign together in Cincinnati on Monday.   One concern is that a Republican governor would appoint her senate replacement.   But Massachusetts allows for a special election in a very short time, so it could be temporary, possibly even before she becomes VP in January.  But also remember that our "bluest state" has elected Republican governors several times in recent years, and they elected Scott Brown to replace Ted Kennedy.  Warren is my first choice in many ways; and the cautions have nothing to do with her personally, just the logistics and the chemistry with Clinton.

   Sen. Tim Kaine (D-VA).   Senator Kaine was a popular governor and now senator of the battleground state Virginia.   He's a good solid, moderate Democrat, which for me may be the major drawback.  In the post-Sanders era, Clinton needs to have someone who can appeal to Sanders voters.   She's got all the "moderate" credibility that she needs.  I don't think Kaine adds anything there.  Not a lot of charisma like the other two either.  Otherwise, I think he's a fine choice, especially because he seems authentic and sincere.    Virginia has a Democratic governor to name his replacement.   One pundit believes Kaine is the most likely pick.

   Secretary of Housing Julian Castro (D-TX).   His big favorables:   Clinton likes him and seems energized by him.   I saw video footage of them together from campaign events, and Clinton glows in his presence.    Besides:   He is Hispanic, young with an attractive family, and has an inspiring personal story (single mother from Mexico raising twin sons, who both went to Stanford and then Harvard Law school -- and made good: one a big city mayor and then Obama's cabinet;  the other a U.S. Congressman).    Julien was mayor of San Antonio when he wowed the audience with his keynote address at the 2012 Democratic convention.   Obama put him in his second term cabinet, dealing with major urban issues of housing.    So he has a little Washington experience, but not too much.    Drawback:   I'm not sure how effective an attack dog he would be against Trump;  but then Clinton is doing a pretty good job of that on her own.   If Julian makes her glow, then I'm for that.

We need to remember this is not an announcement from the Clinton camp.   It could be a strategic leak to distract from the real person they're going for.   Who knows?   All we can say is that more than one source (AP and CNN) are reporting that these three are on the vetting list.    They didn't say whether there will be others.

Three others who have been frequently mentioned in the media are Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH), who would bring a progressive track record, popularity in the most important swing state of Ohio, and someone Clinton obviously likes and feels comfortable with.   He has a deceptively old-shoe, rumpled-suit, gravel-voiced quality to him that tends to mask a keen intelligence and a savvy politician.   Main drawback:   his replacement in the senate would be appointed by Republican governor John Kasich.  And I don't know how soon they would hold an election.

The other frequent mentions are two more Hispanics:  Rep. Xavier Becerra (D-CA) and Labor Secretary Tom PreezI know that Perez was a noted civil rights activist and labor attorney before joining Obama's second-term cabinet.  Becerra is a Stanford Law School grad, who worked his way up to Deputy Attorney General of California, and was then elected to the House.  Obviously well-liked by colleagues, since he is currently Chair of the House Democratic Caucus.


Sunday, June 26, 2016

More prominent Republicans supporting Clinton

Brent Scowcroft is perhaps the most distinguished foreign policy expert alive today, having served as the National Security Advisor for Presidents Gerald Ford and George H. W. Bush, and having advised President Obama on his choice for a national security team.   Scowcroft announced that he is endorsing Hillary Clinton.

A list of 50 Republican CEOs and business experts are supporting Clinton.   This includes Mike Jackson, CEO of AutoNation, the largest auto retailer in the U.S., who said he is no longer a Republican but changed his voter registration to Independent. 

Conservative columnist and TV political pundit, George Will, said this about today's Republican Party:   "This is not my party."   Will has changed his registration to "unaffiliated."   That's pretty big.  George Will fancied himself as the intellectual conservative of the Republicans in the mold of William F. Buckley, who also would not recognize the Republican Party of today.


Update:    Add to the list of prominent Republicans supporting Clinton, just reported late Saturday night:   Former Secretary of Treasury under George W. Bush, Hank Paulson.

Brexit update -- Buyers' remorse

A 52% majority of what was a very high turnout of British voters cast their ballots to "Leave" the European Union.    The highest concentration for "Leave" was in rural and working class areas and among older citizens, where economic austerity measure are most strongly felt.   The highest "Remain" votes came from Scotland (62%), Northern Ireland (56%, London (60%) -- and among young people.

In fact, Scotland's main reason for wanting to withdraw from Britain a couple of years ago was so they could join the EU, if Britain left.   So now there's a movement there to leave the U.K. instead, so Scotland can affiliate independently with the E.U.    As for Northern Ireland, there's even talk of leaving the U.K. and re-uniting with Ireland, which is an E. U. member.   This would be despite the long-standing, bitter violence between Catholic Ireland and Protestant Northern Ireland, until the recent rapproachment.

Buyers' remorse seems to be growingOver 2.5  3.0 million have already signed petitions asking for a redo on the Brexit vote.   Many say either that they just wanted to cast a protest vote, or else they didn't vote, both assuming  that Remain would easily win and their vote wouldn't make a difference. 

This was a very poorly managed political operation, beginning with Prime Minister Cameron's initial plan to give the Leave people a vote to prove they weren't a majority -- and thus shut them up.   Then the Remain campaign couldn't get the Labour Party leader to join them, and it failed to sufficiently convince voters of the extent of the consequences.  It was all a very bad calculation, underestimating the widespread anger at government.   The immigration problem merely exacerbated the economic problems already caused by the austerity plan.

So now maybe the Brits can stop laughing at our election debacle for a bit.