Category: Culture

Analysis of party affiliation — which continues to decline

sheeple

Democrats hold advantages in party identification among blacks, Asians, Hispanics, well-educated adults and Millennials. Republicans have leads among whites – particularly white men, those with less education and evangelical Protestants – as well as members of the Silent Generation…

The share of independents in the public, which long ago surpassed the percentages of either Democrats or Republicans, continues to increase. Based on 2014 data, 39% identify as independents, 32% as Democrats and 23% as Republicans. This is the highest percentage of independents in more than 75 years of public opinion polling…

When the partisan leanings of independents are taken into account, 48% either identify as Democrats or lean Democratic; 39% identify as Republicans or lean Republican. The gap in leaned party affiliation has held fairly steady since 2009, when Democrats held a 13-point advantage…

Race and ethnicity. Republicans hold a 49%-40% lead over the Democrats in leaned party identification among whites. The GOP’s advantage widens to 21 points among white men who have not completed college…and white southerners… The Democrats hold an 80%-11% advantage among blacks, lead by close to three-to-one among Asian Americans…and by more than two-to-one among Hispanics…

Gender. Women lean Democratic by 52%-36%; men are evenly divided…Gender differences are evident in nearly all subgroups: For instance, Republicans lead among married men…while married women are evenly divided…Democrats hold a substantial advantage among all unmarried adults, but their lead in leaned partisan identification is greater among unmarried women…than among unmarried men…

Education. Democrats lead by 22 points…in leaned party identification among adults with post-graduate degrees. The Democrats’ edge is narrower among those with college degrees or some post-graduate experience…and those with less education…Across all educational categories, women are more likely than men to affiliate with the Democratic Party or lean Democratic. The Democrats’ advantage is 35 points…among women with post-graduate degrees, but only eight points…among post-grad men.

Generations. Millennials continue to be the most Democratic age cohort; 51% identify as Democrats or lean Democratic, compared with 35% who identify with the GOP or lean Republican. There are only slight differences in partisan affiliation between older and younger millennials. Republicans have a four-point lead among the Silent Generation…the most Republican age cohort.

Religion. Republicans lead in leaned party identification by 48 points among Mormons and 46 points among white evangelical Protestants. Younger white evangelicals…are about as likely older white evangelicals to identify as Republicans or lean Republican. Adults who have no religious affiliation lean Democratic by a wide margins…Jews lean Democratic by roughly two-to-one…The balance of leaned partisan affiliation among white Catholics and white mainline Protestants closely resembles that of all whites.

The biggest change in partisan affiliation in recent years is the growing share of Americans who decline to affiliate with either party: 39% call themselves independents, 32% identify as Democrats and 23% as Republicans…

The rise in the share of independents has been particularly dramatic over the past decade…

I was a founding member of the Young Republicans Chapter in my home town. That lasted about six weeks.

I was the chairman of the COPE Committee in a couple of UAW Locals. Like just about everyone in any Local 1199 of hospital workers I was a political activist.

I thoroughly resent the fact that New Mexico hasn’t open primaries. I have to register as a Democrat to have a voice in choosing who I get to vote for when elections roll around. There is no likelihood the Republican Party will offer anyone I could vote for. Today.

Go back to the first sentence in this commentary – and that was in New England in the 1950’s. In the small town I lived in, then, there were honest differences in policy, priorities. Both parties in that town opposed racism, supported my kind of activism in civil rights, civil liberties. Both rejected any serious activism for peace. I became a Progressive Independent.

Democrats have lost most of their backbone since then. Republicans have walked away from any concern for equal rights, opportunity, environment, honest government. I’ll usually settle for a Democrat candidate vs. a Republican thug in my neck of the prairie. The Greens haven’t a clue. Unfortunately.

Guess who’s picking up the tab for the wedding of Mr. Burger & Ms. King

burger&king

Burger King is paying the expenses and providing gifts for the wedding of an Illinois couple with an interesting connection to the fast food restaurant chain. Joel Burger and Ashley King accepted the company’s proposal…

The couple has been known as Burger-King since they were in the fifth grade together, in New Berlin near Springfield.

The couple announced their engagement this spring with a photo next to the sign at a local Burger King restaurant. Although a woman’s name usually comes first in an engagement announcement, they decided to flip their names.

A Burger King spokesman says the company felt an overwhelming urge to help the happy couple celebrate their upcoming marriage.

Har.

VA health care wait times getting better – unless you live in the South

The chronic delays plaguing the Veterans Affairs health system are concentrated in a fraction of its hospitals and clinics – many of them in the South – that have done far worse than others in delivering prompt care, according to government data reviewed by The Associated Press.

A year after Americans recoiled at revelations that sick veterans were getting sicker while languishing on waiting lists, VA statistics show that the number of patients facing long waits has not declined, even after Congress gave the department an extra $16.3 billion last summer to shorten waits for care.

Nearly 894,000 appointments completed at VA medical facilities from Aug. 1 to Feb. 28 failed to meet the health system’s timeliness goal, which calls for patients to be seen within 30 days. More than a quarter of those appointments involved a delay of longer than 60 days.

Since the summer, the number of vets waiting more than 30 or 60 days for non-emergency care has largely stayed flat. The number of medical appointments that take longer than 90 days to complete has nearly doubled.

Those delays were not spread evenly throughout the VA’s vast network of hospitals and clinics.

Many occurred in a handful of Southern states, often in areas with a strong military presence, a rural population and patient growth that has outpaced the VA’s sluggish planning process.

47 clinics and hospitals represent just a fraction of the more than 1,000 VA facilities nationwide, but they were responsible for more than one in five of the appointments that took longer than 60 days to complete

The AP examined six months of appointment data at 940 individual VA facilities to gauge changes since a scandal over delays led to the resignation of the VA’s secretary and prompted lawmakers in August to give the VA an additional $16.3 billion to hire doctors, open more clinics and build the new Choice program that allows patients facing long delays to get private-sector care…The analysis reveals stark differences between the haves and have-nots.

In the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Coast states, few VA sites reported having significant delays. A little less than half of all VA hospitals and clinics reported averaging fewer than two appointments per month that involved a wait of more than 60 days.

But at the VA’s outpatient clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, 7,117 appointments completed between Sept. 1 and Feb. 28 involved a wait of more than 60 days. There were more vets experiencing extended delays there than in the entire states of New York and Pennsylvania combined.

RTFA if you want more examples, lots of statistics illustrating regional distortions beyond comprehension. I haven’t been in a VA hospital for years and most of those I ever visited were in New England where they take care of business pretty well. At least since Reagan left office.

You’d think that with all the agitprop our politicians spew on a regular basis about our holy wars and even-holier warriors they might want competent oversight of the buck$ we regularly throw at problems like this.

Or not.

Low Vitamin D a correlation at all stages of psychosis

British researchers have found a correlation between low vitamin D levels and poorer function and mood in first-onset psychosis patients after 1 year.

Among 166 patients at first onset of psychosis (64% male), about 19% had sufficient vitamin D levels, 40% had insufficient levels and 42% were deficient, according to Fiona Gaughran, MD, at the Institute of Psychiatry in London…

Vitamin D levels are extremely low at all stages of psychosis” the authors wrote. “Low vitamin D is linked to quality of life, mood, and cardiometabolic risk in established psychosis and highlights the need for holistic management of psychosis.”

Previous research has linked low vitamin D levels with psychosis, the authors explained, but it’s not clear how the two factors interact with each other. “Importantly, given the high rates of early death in psychosis, low vitamin D is also a cardiovascular risk factor”, they noted…

Gaughran and colleagues also noted that vitamin D levels were similar in smokers and nonsmokers, but levels were lower for those who engaged in low-intensity exercise versus those who did moderate or high-intensity exercise…

Correlation is not causation; but, hey – want to get healthy or stay healthy, physiologically, neurologically, a healthy lifestyle is all-inclusive.

Shrinking habitats worldwide have adverse effects on all ecosystems


Click to enlargephoto/Ellen Damschen

An extensive study of global habitat fragmentation – the division of habitats into smaller and more isolated patches – points to major trouble for a number of the world’s ecosystems and the plants and animals living in them.

The study shows that 70 percent of existing forest lands are within a half-mile of the forest edge, where encroaching urban, suburban or agricultural influences can cause any number of harmful effects – like the losses of plants and animals.

The study also tracks seven major experiments on five continents that examine habitat fragmentation and finds that fragmented habitats reduce the diversity of plants and animals by 13 to 75 percent, with the largest negative effects found in the smallest and most isolated fragments of habitat…

The researchers assembled a map of global forest cover and found very few forest lands unencumbered by some type of human development…

“The results were astounding. Nearly 20 percent of the world’s remaining forest is the distance of a football field – or about 100 meters – away from a forest edge. Seventy percent of forest lands are within a half-mile of a forest edge. That means almost no forest can really be considered wilderness“…said Dr. Nick Haddad.

The study also examined seven existing major experiments on fragmented habitats currently being conducted across the globe; some of these experiments are more than 30 years old.

Covering many different types of ecosystems, from forests to savannas to grasslands, the experiments combined to show a disheartening trend: Fragmentation causes losses of plants and animals, changes how ecosystems function, reduces the amounts of nutrients retained and the amount of carbon sequestered, and has other deleterious effects…

Haddad points to some possible ways of mitigating the negative effects of fragmentation: conserving and maintaining larger areas of habitat; utilizing landscape corridors, or connected fragments that have shown to be effective in achieving higher biodiversity and better ecosystem function; increasing agricultural efficiency; and focusing on urban design efficiencies.

Troubling study, indeed. Half-measures continue to take their toll on remaining wilderness. Allowing out-of-date cultural behaviors for no other reason than “it was OK for grand-dad” works for politicians and other lazy minds. When true wilderness is gone there is less than zero likelihood of regaining what society as a whole has lost.

The Bush family had a “good laugh” over Jeb registering to vote as Hispanic

Likely Republican presidential contender Jeb Bush, who was popular among Spanish-speaking voters while Florida governor, marked himself as “Hispanic” on a 2009 voter registration application, The New York Times reported…

The newspaper posted a fuzzy copy of the form, which it said it obtained from the Miami-Dade County Elections Department. The circle marked “Hispanic” was checked. The next circle said “White, not Hispanic” and was not checked.

A Bush spokeswoman said it was unclear how the error was made. “The governor’s family certainly got a good laugh out of it,” spokeswoman Kristy Campbell said. “He is not Hispanic…”

Bush, who speaks fluent Spanish and whose wife, Columba, is Mexican-born, had widespread support among Hispanic voters during his two terms as Florida governor

I presume the TIMES knows the differences between Cuban-centric voters in Florida – who usually vote Republican – and Hispanic voters in the rest of the United States. They just don’t want to distract from their cute report…

His stance on immigration has been at odds with the views of many in his party, including when he said last year that illegal immigrants who come to the United States to provide for their families are not committing a felony but an “act of love.”

Like any moderate Republican hypocrite – as opposed to the more typical Right-Wing Republican hypocrite – Bush is now enabled to be as two-faced as he wishes on questions of immigration depending upon the audience he’s addressing.

Feds after oil and gas industry for underpaying workers

In states with the most oil and gas drilling, including Texas, Oklahoma and North Dakota, the U.S. Department of Labor has won back pay for over 4,000 energy industry workers in just the past year.

It totaled $6.7 million dollars, accounting for a third of all such settlements by all types of industries nationwide…

Cynthia Watson, the U.S. Department of Labor’s Regional Administrator, said companies were shorting their workers, sometimes thousands of dollars each. She cited Department of Labor cases since 2012 that include:

A Houston company that builds drilling rigs that paid back $687,000 in back wages to 133 roughnecks and crane operators

A Louisiana company that provides labor services to the industry and paid nearly $2 million in back wages to 2,267 workers

A New Mexico company that agreed to pay nearly $600,000 to 121 to drilling rig “mud logging technicians”

Galvin Kennedy, a lawyer in Houston who sues energy companies on behalf of workers, said his cases most often involved “mid-tier oil and gas companies” that got “sloppy or greedy” and misclassified their employees as independent contractors and avoided paying overtime and other benefits

The oil and gas industry says blah, blah, blah.

The oil and gas industry is run by exactly the kind of greedy bastards you think they are. They whine that the paperwork is too complex and that’s why there is a problem. Hogwash!

It’s been decades since I worked in the industry and the problem ain’t news. Manipulation of work hours and on/off contract work has been going on ever since the first lawyer clambered up out of a petrochemical sewer and showed folks in the front office how to steal a little more back from workers.

Not any different from the thievery that force states like New Mexico to sue one or another fossil fuel outfit for years of hidden back taxes every decade. Part of doing business with these creeps.

NM kids are eating healthier, less obese

Child obesity rates in New Mexico continued a multiyear decline in 2014, but have remained stubbornly high among Native Americans and Hispanics, the state Department of Health reported.

Health officials cheered the report, which shows that the obesity rate for New Mexico third-grade students declined for the fifth consecutive year in 2014.

Patty Morris, project director, and others credit the decrease to a growing awareness of the serious consequences of childhood obesity and measures by school districts and government agencies to provide healthier meals and more physical activity for young children…

In just the past few years, salad bars have become commonplace in elementary schools, she said.

“They have mini salad bars for little kids,” said Rita Condon, program manager for Healthy Kids New Mexico. “They’re just the right size. They use them and they love them…”

Kindergartners showed a four-year decline in obesity, from 15 percent in 2011 to 11.6 percent in 2014…

Obesity rates among Native American third graders in New Mexico remain a challenge, but have shown some improvement.

About one in three Native American third-grade students is overweight or obese, the Department of Health report said.

The obesity rate for third-grade Native Americans edged down from 36.6 percent in 2010 to 32.6 percent in 2014.

Among Hispanics, just more than one in five third graders is obese – a figure that has varied only slightly since 2010.

For Anglo third-graders, the obesity rate has declined from 17.8 percent in 2010 to 10 percent in 2014…

Obesity is common, serious and costly, affecting more than a third of U.S. adults, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Obesity-related conditions include heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer…

And obese children were likely to remain that way as adults…

Officials say they are addressing the problem by offering training programs to school and preschool personnel throughout the state to encourage healthier meals that comply with new U.S. Department of Agriculture standards.

School districts around the state have proven eager to adopt the new standards…

All of which is good news.

We know for a fact that children across the country adapt to healthier school food programs. As much as purveyors of mediocre food campaigned for no positive changes, enlisting backwards parents and groups to support their profit structure – those campaigns have failed in states with the sense to move forward.

Kids respond – and they respond by developing new positive habits they bring home to their extended families.

Cultural differences remain and those reflect more complexity than this article offers. We had a breakfast discussion about this article, this morning, and while each of us had anecdotal experiences that both confirmed and denied cultural averages, nothing easy presented itself as a more complete solution.

What state education authorities have begun is a great step forward and should be applauded. It’s taken enough time to get this far.

Netanyahu’s Victory of Fear


What Israelis mean by “boots on the ground”

Binyamin Netanyahu is probably the most deficient prime minister in Israel’s history. His blunders and vices have been laid bare in great abundance during his nine years in power. When he embarked on his most recent campaign for re-election, even his own supporters and constituents could not hide their disgust at his egomaniacal behavior and his wife’s embarrassing public conduct.

Beyond Netanyahu’s noxious personal characteristics, Israel has consolidated its position as one of the OECD’s most unequal countries under his rule. Netanyahu…asked the country’s penurious middle class and poor to re-elect him on a record of high living costs, unaffordable housing, and a 21% poverty rate. Yet re-elect him they did.

Nor could Netanyahu find any respectable security experts to vouch for his return to power. Some 180 generals and war heroes, chief among them Meir Dagan, one of the most revered former heads of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service, came together to oppose the re-election of a man they described as a threat to Israel’s security.

But one does not have to be a security icon to see how Netanyahu has burned Israel’s bridges with the international community, particularly the United States, Israel’s most indispensable ally and benefactor. Not only did he openly seek to sabotage President Barack Obama’s negotiations with Iran by aligning himself with Obama’s Republican opponents; two days before the election, he suddenly reneged on his commitment to the two-state solution, the cornerstone of the international community’s vision for achieving peace in the Middle East.

Given all of this, why did Israeli voters reward Netanyahu with a third consecutive term as prime minister?

At which point Shlomo Ben-Ami lays out the respectable answer, the litany accepted by what passes for news as entertainment throughout the Western World. Followed by personal commentary:

There is, however, another reason for Netanyahu’s victory. The left failed to recognize that Israeli elections are not strictly political affairs; they are an expression of an ongoing Kulturkampf in an ethnically kaleidoscopic society. Israeli elections are in some ways a tribal affair; people vote on the basis of memories, insults, religious sensibilities, and group grievances.

A sad description of what the nation of Israel has become. Read it and weep not. It is choice not accident.

Shelter from the cold; well, sort of — Canadian ice-fishing huts

Photographer Richard Johnson has spent the past eight winters traveling through nine of Canada’s ten provinces taking photos of ice fishermen’s huts. The deserted shacks against the desolate background of Canada’s most remote territories creates a strikingly beautiful scene. “It is architecture at its most primitive level,” he says. “It’s shelter. It’s portable. It’s made by the owners of the hut. It’s not pretentious. It is a solution. Every single person needs heat.”

When asked why he enjoys photographing such simple structures he says, “For me, these are really portraits of the individual. But the individual is not present.”

Enjoy larger – and more – photos. From across the width of Canada.