Saturday, June 27, 2015

From hatred and division to unity and healing

If you haven't watched President Obama's eulogy to the victims of the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, you ought to do so. It will likely go down as one of his most memorable speeches — and it's tough not to get emotional when he leads the audience in singing a recitation of "Amazing Grace" at the end.

As he often does, Obama did a great job bringing people together in a shared sense of remembrance, hope, and purpose in the wake of a terrible tragedy. That, I think, is exactly what this nation needs right now. Racism is still very real and very toxic. Political division rears its ugly head all the time. What tears people apart seems so much stronger than what bonds them.

Last year, when the world was observing the 20th anniversary of the Rwanda genocide, I said this about what I thought was the cause of such a dark event in international history:

Friday, June 26, 2015

Another failed (if valiant) attempt to screw over poor people

Courtesy of Kaiser Family Foundation and Huffington Post
The argument at the center of King v. Burwell was laughably stupid. Indeed, it might have been comedic material if it hadn't been the justification for taking away health coverage from millions of Americans. That certainly makes it no laughing matter.

At issue in this Supreme Court case was a phrase in the Affordable Care Act that says that subsidies for buying health insurance are available to those who shop for it on "an exchange established by the state." The plaintiffs argued "state" meant literally that: Subsidies could only be issued to those in states that chose to set up their own exchanges. Anyone living in a state without its own exchange — those colored in green on the map at right — wasn't eligible for subsidies, they contended, precisely because of that phrase in the law.

As you can see, the majority of states declined to set up their own exchanges (in large part due to Republicans' spiteful opposition and obstruction), which means a lot of people across the country depend on the subsidies in question to buy health insurance through, the federal exchange.

What makes this latest challenge to the health care law so absurd is that there's no conceivable way, by even the most charitable interpretation, that Congress intended for it to be interpreted as the plaintiffs argued. If subsidies could only be extended to those in the dozen or so states with their own exchanges, everyone else would be left high and dry, and the law would have failed entirely at meeting its main goal — extending affordable health care coverage to all Americans.

Friday, June 19, 2015

The NRA: Truly a vile organization

In the wake of Wednesday's horrific, racially-motivated mass shooting in Charleston, South Carolina:
National Rifle Association board member Charles L. Cotton blamed slain reverend and South Carolina state Senator Clementa Pinckney for the deaths in his congregation after the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. A gunmen assaulted Pinckney’s historically black church on Wednesday, killing him and eight others.

Cotton posted the comments in an online forum he runs for discussion of Texas firearms. A quick dig into the forum’s history revealed other troubling comments, including a lament that it was “too bad we lost the civil war.”

The post about the Charleston attack, which faulted Pinckney’s gun control positions and said his church members would have lived had it not been for that political stance, were apparently deleted from the site as of Friday morning after having been reported on by Media Matters on Thursday night.

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Scenes from Vancouver, BC

In my experience, the Canadians run some pretty fine cities, and Vancouver is no exception. Just a couple hours' bus, train, or car ride north of Seattle, it's also a great weekend destination for this part of the United States.

Vancouver skyline viewed from Stanley Park.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Second Amendment: Right (for white men) to bear arms

So, this recently happened at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport:
Taking advantage of his state’s open carry laws, a Georgia man paraded around the Atlanta airport toting a loaded AR-15 simply because he could — alarming police and airport security.

Jim Cooley carried his assault weapon with a 100-round drum attached to it while accompanied by his wife as they dropped their daughter off, alerting the press later after he was stopped multiple times by authorities.

…While in the airport, Cooley was approached by a fire marshal asking him why he was carrying the gun, an Atlanta police officer who asked him if he had a carry permit, and then multiple officers who followed him to his car while taking pictures.

…Asked by a reporter if it was reasonable to alarm people by lugging the loaded gun around even if it was legal, Cooley replied, “If you don’t exercise your rights, the government doesn’t have any hesitation taking them away.”
No, you don't have to click on the article, and you probably already guessed anyway. It was a white guy.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

This is what's happening with Seattle

First, watch this hideously contrived recruitment video from Amazon about so-called "life in Seattle." Most of it made me want to slam my head into a wall — mainly because it's obviously targeted toward, shall we say, a certain demographic. If you have a chance, head over to YouTube and read some of the comments. They reflect a lot of my sentiments.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Yes, all lives matter, including those of cops

This editorial, written by the police chief in Bremerton, Washington, is great food for thought as we continue to wrestle as a society with issues of racial tension and police misconduct. I think most of it is spot-on (text bolded for emphasis):
I will start by acknowledging, up front, that I am in no way offering a blanket defense of everything police officers do — in fact, quite the opposite. There is no excuse for any number of incidents we have seen over the last several months nationwide.

The shooting in South Carolina of a man running from the officer, the ongoing injustice of the revenue-based system of law enforcement in Ferguson, and the poor training and decision-making that led to the death of Eric Garner in New York City are just a few examples. We have much to do and improve in this profession.

That does not change the fact that, as we all know, the vast majority of officers and deputies are doing it right every day…

…Somehow in the middle of the focus on police accountability, which is always constructive and appropriate, we have lost sight of the fact that people cannot pick fights with the police.

Every physical confrontation with police involves a gun — the one on the officer’s hip. As officers, we are all necessarily committed to never to get into a position to lose our gun, which means we cannot lose the fight, ever. That important fact should receive much greater emphasis.