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.)

Monday, August 17, 2015

Will Bernie Sanders go the way of Barack Obama?

If you want some really interesting historical perspective on where we're at right now in the Democratic presidential nomination process for next year, take a look at the primary polls from this moment eight years ago.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The beast that is Amazon

I got this package delivered a day earlier than promised;
but at what cost?
I'm an Amazon customer, for better or for worse, so I don't approach this from a position of moral superiority. Amazon sells school textbooks for cheap — much cheaper than I could get anywhere else — and you can get them quickly for no additional charge if you're a Prime member.

But there is a cost for all of that, even if I'm not the one who ultimately bears it.

This is the line that really stuck with me from a lengthy New York Times article this weekend that examines the corporate culture at Amazon (please read it if you get a chance): "For all of the employees who are edged out, many others flee, exhausted or unwilling to further endure the hardships for the cause of delivering swim goggles and rolls of Scotch tape to customers just a little quicker."

Which prompts an uncomfortable question: Is the human toll really worth it for what that company actually does?

Monday, August 10, 2015

We need Bernie Sanders, because most Democrats are wimps

This guy is the future of the Democratic Party,
even though he says he's not a Democrat.
"You don't change the system from within the Democratic Party," said Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

"My own feeling is that the Democratic Party is ideologically bankrupt…I think you have a Democratic Party which is not as strong as it should be in standing up for the working class of this country and taking on big-money interests. And that's been my view for a long time."

Bernie gets it right on so many different issues, and this one is no exception. His critique of the Democratic Party seems timely in the wake of Sen. Chuck Schumer's commitment to sabotage President Obama's historic deal with Iran. (In so doing, the Democratic senator from New York — New York! — neatly aligns himself with the clown car of Republican candidates who have expressed similar sentiments on the deal.)

And it rings even more true in light of this recent Politico article, which notes that red-state Democrats are "worried" about competing in their so-called conservative environments as the party supposedly moves farther to the political left. Paul Davis, last year's Democratic gubernatorial candidate in Kansas, is quoted thus: "The national Democratic Party’s brand makes it challenging for Democrats in red states oftentimes and I hope that going forward, the leaders at the national level will be mindful of that and they will understand that they can’t govern the country without Democrats being able to win races in red states.”

So, what "brand" is that, and why can't Democrats win races in red states?

Friday, August 7, 2015

Mount Rainier dominates the sky in Washington

The diminutive skyscrapers of downtown Seattle (about 17 miles to the south) are dwarfed by massive profile of Mount Rainier (about 75 miles to the south) in this photo taken from the Washington State Ferry between Kingston and Edmonds in July 2013.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Americans vote for lawmakers who don't represent them

To some extent, every state is a blue state; that's just never reflected in our elections.
I'm back in Michigan again this week, so this blog post from last month really caught my attention. It talks about how thoroughly this state's legislature is rigged in favor of Republicans:
Given the results of the last few elections in Michigan where Democrats received the majority of the votes but Republicans won a majority of the seats in the state legislature, there is little to argue about when it comes to discussing gerrymandering and how terribly gerrymandered our state is. There are hardly any competitive seats in our state anymore. Period.

However, a new poll out from Public Policy Polling brings the reality of this into sharp relief. Without question, the voters in our state lean toward progressive, sometimes sharply, on a wide array of issues while our state legislature is as Republican as any southern state.
Yep. The same is true in a number of other traditionally Democratic states — like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, just to name two.