Thursday, October 8, 2015

House Republicans: Ungovernable

Outgoing House Speaker John Boehner is no hero for abruptly resigning from Congress; the truth is, his job was already at risk, and it has been for a long time, and he realized that.

Boehner knew that he'd probably face a vote of no confidence from the restive extremists who run his party if he cut a deal with Democrats to prevent the second government shutdown in as many years.

And the fact is, Boehner's resignation does not neutralize that threat at all; it simply kicks the can down the road, so to speak. Stan Collender, a columnist at Forbes, already pegs the chances of a December shutdown at 50 percent. (This is the guy who placed the likelihood of a shutdown this month at 75 percent before Boehner jumped ship.)

Sunday, October 4, 2015

‘A good guy with a gun’ didn’t stop Oregon’s massacre

If you look at a map of Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon, you'll see that it's not a big campus. So even if the guy interviewed in this video hadn't been in the building where America's latest mass shooting occurred, it stands to reason that he could have gotten over there fairly quickly to take out the perpetrator, right?

Or even if he couldn't for some reason, it's worth noting that Oregon is among a handful of states whose laws permit the carrying of concealed weapons on public college campuses. Umpqua Community College is one of those campuses. So there's a very good chance that the man in the interview wasn't the only one packing there on the morning of the shooting. This fact alone surely must have deterred the gunman, right?

Obviously it didn't.

And obviously Oregon's permissive laws regarding the possession of firearms at institutions of higher learning didn't prevent the slaughter of nine people in a place that was widely believed to be safe.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

I don't give a shit about Hillary Clinton's emails

Seriously, this has got to be one of the worst manufactured scandals I've ever seen. Honestly, I don't even care if Hillary Clinton did commit some impropriety — legally, ethically, or otherwise. Just like I didn't care if Bill Clinton had sex with a White House intern. What she did with her emails five years ago — and what he did with Monica Lewinsky 20 years ago — means absolutely nothing for the future of this country.

And this country is in trouble.

In the face of that, the mainstream media could be spending its time talking about real issues of significance, and how each of the presidential candidates propose to address those issues.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end

I visited Seattle for the first time in June 1998. It was a family vacation with my parents and my sister.

Of course, at the time, I hadn't the faintest idea that I would ever live in Seattle. I still thought of this place as the mystical, rainy, mountain- and water-bound city far out west that intrigued me greatly and that I would be privileged to ever visit. (I don't think of it that way anymore.)

One of the most popular songs that summer was "Closing Time" by Semisonic. So much so that even when I hear it now, I'm instantly transported back to that year, when I took a road trip out to the western edge of the continent with my family and we ate a fancy dinner in the rotating restaurant at the Space Needle (which I've never done since, by the way).

And one of the most meaningful lines in that song for me is this: "Every new beginning comes from some other beginning's end."

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Syrian refugee crisis: Not just their problem. Ours, too.

Good Lord, this is heartbreaking. This is the sort of picture I'd imagine would make Jesus Christ Himself weep.

Here's what makes it all the more devastating: The Syrian refugee crisis is far and away the worst humanitarian emergency of our time. It's been going on since 2011. But most Americans know nothing about it; most have no idea it's even happening.

Most are clueless that 12 million people — nearly double the population of Washington state — have been affected by the crisis, or that more than 4 million have been forced to flee Syria.

Most are entirely unaware of the terrible things that are happening to children and families as war rages in their homeland.

Obviously, the image above, horrifying though it is, does not begin to scratch the surface of the depths of this humanitarian disaster. It simply brings it into sharp and brutal focus.

And I feel strongly that it needs to be shared. What else is going to get the world to stop turning a blind eye?

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Two reasons we still can't do anything about gun violence

Reason #1: It's still sacrilege to suggest that the Second Amendment is part of the problem — even in the wake of an unspeakable tragedy.

Andy Parker, the father of the 24-year-old reporter who was brutally gunned down on live television Wednesday in Virginia, did a great job taking down one of the NRA's most popular talking points: that this wouldn't happen if more people would simply carry guns at all times. Seriously, what difference would that have made in this scenario? As Parker points out, the young journalists could have been brandishing AK-47s, and they still would have died. They were ambushed. They had no time whatsoever to react. No one expects to be shot execution style while delivering a news report on tourism in a small town. No one should have to. This is the sick society in which we live.

But with all due respect to a grieving father (and his cause), here's where Parker loses me: "…Look, I'm for the Second Amendment, but there has to be a way to force politicians that are cowards and in the pockets of the NRA to come to grips and make sense — have sensible laws so that crazy people can't get guns. It can't be that hard."

It's almost as though he stuck in that parenthetical reference to the Second Amendment for fear that people wouldn't take him seriously if he didn't. Sadly, it's probably a valid fear. And that's usually how it goes in the aftermath of tragedies like this one. Even Barack Obama plays this game: "Of course I support the Second Amendment, but…"

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Planned Parenthood and the problem with the "pro-life" movement

This crowd = not really pro-life.
Did you know that it was a Republican president who first signed into law federal funding for family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood? And did you know that that law, known as Title X, passed the Senate unanimously, and that it sailed through the House on a vote of 298-32?

That means that a lot of Republicans voted for it at the time. Can you think of any federal legislation of comparable significance that could pass today with such widespread support on Capitol Hill? In fact, scratch that. Can you think of any federal legislation, period, that could pass today with such widespread support? I sure can't.

Here's President Richard Nixon in December 1970:
…I called for a national commitment to provide adequate family planning services within the next five years to all those who want them but cannot afford them. It was clear that the domestic family planning services supported by the federal government were not adequate to provide information and services to all who want them on a voluntary basis…

…It is noteworthy that this landmark legislation on family planning and population has had strong bipartisan support. I am confident that by working together — at federal, state, and local levels — we can achieve the goal of providing adequate family planning services within the next five years to all those who want them but cannot afford them.
That's right. Providing contraception, birth control, and other "pro-life" services to families in need — like HIV, STD, and cancer screenings and interventions — used to be noncontroversial, even among Republicans. And there's a logical reason for that: The common wisdom, at least at the time, was that by promoting women's health, providing medical services rendered otherwise inaccessible by poverty, and preventing unwanted pregnancies, the number of abortions in the United States could also be reduced. (Title X does not and never has allowed federal funds to go toward abortions.)