No Such Thing As Partial Equality.

Although I’m not excited at the prospects of young women being involved in combat (I’m actually not fond of anyone being involved in combat), I applaud the decision. It means that our government is finally addressing inequality.

We have a long way to go. There’s still discrimination with regard to women’s salaries, GLBT rights, economic inequality for racial minorities, even inequality with regard to religion.

Many women are paid less for doing the same job as a man. Our laws still do not recognize gay and lesbian marriage. After centuries of slavery and discrimination, racial minorities often begin their lives with fewer opportunities for a good education, economic advancement and personal security. Religions try to impose their beliefs on our laws and individual behavior. And those who do not participate in organized religion are forced to subsidize those who do through tax exemptions for church property.

It has taken far too long for our nation to achieve true equality. It took nearly a century to end slavery. It took far longer to grant suffrage to women. It took longer still to end Jim Crow laws. And after more than 200 years, it would seem that many Americans do not yet understand the meaning of Democracy; of equality and of freedom with responsibility.

If, one day, all American citizens are to be equal, we must recognize the inequalities that still exist. And we must do everything in our collective power to address inequality whenever and wherever we encounter it. Equality is, after all, absolute. Our citizens are either equal in every regard. Or they’re not. There is no middle ground.

Another Chickensh*t Decision By A Democrat.

Last week, Sen. Harry Reid had an opportunity for real filibuster reform.

With the beginning of each new Congress, the Senate can determine its rules by a simple majority vote. Given the opportunity, many Democrats wanted to return to a voice filibuster like that of the past. In other words, the minority would still be able to filibuster. But they would no longer be able to do it anonymously, and they would have to continue debate on the Senate floor until they were exhausted or collected the 60 votes necessary to end debate on the measure.

Unfortunately, Reid chose to negotiate with Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, winning a few very minor concessions.

It was an opportunity lost.

During the last three Democrat-controlled sessions, Teapublicans set an all-time record with more than 400 filibusters. They filibustered everything from President Obama’s cabinet nominations and judicial appointments to the repeal of Big Oil subsidies and the Paycheck Fairness Act.

Now, as a result of Reid’s timidity, the obstructionist Teapublican minority can continue to block legislation by requiring a super-majority of 60 votes to allow debate on virtually any measure.

As Senator Tom Harkin warned prior to Reid’s failure, without filibuster reform it will be virtually impossible for President Obama to carry out his vision for his second term. He noted that the compromise will allow Senators to literally phone it in. “It still will provide a system where people can filibuster and they don’t even have to come here,” said Harkin. As a result, he said, President Obama “might as well take a 4-year vacation.”

Are We Willing To Settle For This America?

There are those, particularly on the political right, who are satisfied with the way things are in the US. They truly believe that everything about the US is better than any other country in the world. And they believe it’s unpatriotic to criticize our faults.

But can we really settle for the way things are in the US?

Can we accept a nation where freedom and opportunity are still not shared equally? Are we willing to allow large, multinational corporations to buy elections, dictate government policy and send our jobs off-shore? Can we afford to watch our nation fall farther behind in education and technology?

Can we afford to allow our infrastructure to continue to crumble? Can we afford to have corporations devastate our environment in search of ever-larger profits? Are we content to allow military-style weapons to fall into the hands of the paranoid and the criminally insane? Can we watch more Aurora and Newtown-style massacres and do nothing?

Can we afford to be perpetually at war? Are we willing to accept that more of our soldiers now die from suicides than firefights? Can we settle for being the only advanced nation in the world that doesn’t provide healthcare to all of its citizens?

Can we accept ever-higher education costs and ever-lower salaries for our youth? Are we willing to cut pensions and retirement plans for our elderly in order for large corporations to avoid taxes? Are we content to put drug users and petty thieves in prison and let the bankers who stole trillions continue to walk free?

Can we any longer listen to those who demand “a return to Christian values” then turn their backs on the starving, the wounded and the infirm?

At his inauguration, President Obama spoke passionately of his vision for America. An America at peace. An America with freedom and equality for everyone. An America based on a growing and prosperous middle class. An America that provides opportunity for everyone. An America that is, once again, a true leader in the world.

It’s time to for all Americans to follow our president’s vision and stop settling.

Sorry For The Interruption.

This site has been unavailable for nearly a week. I can’t blame Teapublicans, Fox News Channel, Rush Limbaugh or any of the other angry, right wing zealots who would like to silence the left. The reason for the interruption was nothing quite that interesting.

It was simply the result of technical problems. 

Thanks for your patience. I’m happy to be back.

Preparing To Steal Elections.

On Monday, Teapublicans in the Virginia State Senate used the absence of a Democratic senator (who was attending the Presidential Inauguration) to ambush Democrats by calling for a vote on a bill to redraw senate districts. The bill gerrymandered the state to ensure that Teapublicans would enjoy a virtual permanent advantage.

This is but the most recent effort by Teapublicans to prepare for the 2014 elections. It appears that they no longer believe they can win based on ideas. So rather than modify their ideas to make them more attractive to a majority of Americans, they have decided to cheat. They are in the process of gerrymandering wherever possible and passing laws that will make it more difficult for minorities and Democrats to vote.

Even Joe Scarborough, a former Republican Congressman, noted the other day that Republicans wouldn’t have retained control of the US House of Representatives if they hadn’t “cheated” through gerrymandering.

Another Teapublican attack involves remaking the electoral college. Currently, all but two states follow the nation’s original winner-take-all approach to electoral votes. In other words, if a presidential candidate wins the state’s popular vote, all of that state’s electoral votes go to that candidate.

But Teapublicans want to change that. They want the electoral votes to be awarded by district. Therefore, by gerrymandering the districts of the states, they hope to change the outcome of elections. The plan would make it far easier for a candidate to lose the popular vote and still win the election.

These tactics may represent the greatest threat to our nation’s democracy since the British invaded Washington, D.C. in the War of 1812. The only question is, will voters allow these anti-American thugs to get away with it?

Another Teapublican Backfire.

Remember all of the idiotic comments about rape during the past election campaign? You know, the ones about how women’s bodies have a way of preventing pregnancy from “legitimate” rape.

It turns out that those comments prevented a bunch of Teapublicans from being elected.

What’s more, it seems that all of the discussion about women’s reproductive rights has backfired on the old white men who want to control a woman’s womb. According to a new Wall Street Journal/NBC poll, more people support Roe v. Wade than at any time since 1989. The poll shows that 7 in 10 people support a woman’s right to have an abortion in some or all circumstances!

Who knew that the best way to defeat intolerant, narrow-minded politicians is to simply let them talk?

Now let’s hope the stupid Teapublican statements about arming teachers have a similar effect on attitudes about gun safety.

Exposing The Lies Of The Gun Lobby.

Since the 1980s, gun lobbyists such as the National Rifle Association have generated a huge number of lies in order to further sales of gun manufacturers. Here are just a few of the lies:

1 – “The 2nd Amendment guarantees the right of all Americans to possess firearms.”

The meaning of 2nd Amendment has been debated for decades.  The exact wording is “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” Obviously, it ties the right to keep and bear arms to a Militia.

When the 2nd Amendment was ratified in 1791, the US had defeated the British only 8 years earlier. The future of the nation was not assured (the US was nearly defeated and the Capitol occupied in the War of 1812) and the nation’s standing army was small, supplemented by state militias. In order to ensure the nation’s future, it was necessary for the US to enlist help from its citizenry.

It’s difficult to imagine that Congress ever intended the 2nd Amendment as a means to allow the indiscriminate slaughter of our citizens by weapons its representatives could not even imagine.

2 – “The government has no right to limit the number and type of firearms.”

In fact, the federal government has been regulating arms for many decades. The government has banned private ownership of fully-automatic “machine” guns, hand grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, shoulder-fired rockets, surface-to-air missiles, armed military-style aircraft, etc. The 2nd Amendment only mentions “Arms.”

I think we can all agree that it is necessary, for the safety of our citizens, to prevent people from owning nuclear Arms.

3 – “The 2nd Amendment was intended to prevent tyranny by our federal government.”

In a nation with a government of the people, by the people and for the people, this claim seems absurd. However, most of the nation’s founders were opposed to the nation maintaining a standing army. In discussions by the founders leading up to its passage, the focus was on defense of our nation against external foes, i.e. the British.

4 – “Guns are necessary for self-defense.”

I’ve never seen a gun that can stop a bullet.

For all practical purposes, guns are an offensive weapon. Being armed with a handgun does not prevent an armed assailant from robbing or shooting you if the assailant has drawn his gun first. Even if you’re able to draw your weapon, at best, you are likely to be involved in a shootout that will be won by the quickest, most accurate shot. At worst, you’ll endanger innocent bystanders who could be caught in the crossfire.

90 percent of self-defense is having the awareness to avoid dangerous situations before they happen!

5 – “Any form of regulation is the first step in the government taking our guns.”

Nonsense. It won’t and can’t happen without our consent. There are simply too many gun owners for that to happen. And, no, that’s not what happened to Germans when the Nazis took control. Hitler actually relaxed gun control laws passed by the previous government.

6 – “The United Nations is coming to take our guns.”

That has as much credibility as the Mayan Apocalypse! The US helped found the UN. The US is the strongest member of the UN. The US military is more powerful than virtually all of the other member nations’ combined (See #5). And, despite the paranoia being shoveled by the extreme right, the latest UN treaty on arms control does not affect domestic policies. It is intended solely to control illegal arms trade to rogue nations and terrorist groups.

7 – “AR-15s, AK-47s and similar weapons are not assault rifles.”

In reality, the AR-15, AK-47s and many other “tactical” weapons sold to civilians were actually designed for use by the military and law enforcement agencies. The biggest difference between them and military weapons is that they are strictly semi-automatic, which means they fire each time you pull the trigger as compared to fully-automatic weapons which continue to fire as long as you hold the trigger. (In some cases, the fully-automatic feature has simply been disabled and can be restored with an inexpensive kit sold separately.) But there’s not all that much difference in the rate of fire. Even the military discourages fully-automatic fire as it is less accurate and wastes ammunition.

These weapons are not used for hunting. They have only one purpose: killing people.

8 – “Only Democrats and liberals favor gun control.”

I guess that’s true, if you consider Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush to be liberals. Both spoke eloquently in favor of banning the domestic sale of assault rifles. Come to think of it, if these men were running for office today, they would probably be labeled liberals.

A Fair Solution For The Debt “Crisis.”

For the past four years, we’ve heard a lot of whining about the federal deficits and debt, primarily from red states.  Although quiet during the prolific spending spree of the Bush administration, once President Obama took office, Teapublican anger swelled throughout the old South and in states like Arizona.

Ironically, many of those who scream the loudest receive Social Security and Medicare. And many others take advantage of other federally-funded social programs such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and the GI Bill.

That caused me to wonder how the contributions of the most vocal states stack up compared to the largess they receive from the federal government. Certainly, given their angst, you would expect that they pay far more in federal taxes than they get back.

You would be wrong.

In 2007 (the most recent data I could find), Arizona contributed $35,485 million in federal taxes and received $48,012 million back in federal spending. So the state received $1,976 more per person than it contributed. In other words, it’s a state of “takers.”

In fact, of the 28 states that receive more than they contribute, the vast majority are reliably red!

On the other hand, the vast majority of the “giver” states are reliably blue. The top five (Delaware, Minnesota, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York) are all blue states, contributing $4,500 to $12,285 per person more than they receive.

Of the 22 states that pay in more than they get back, only Arkansas, Georgia, Nebraska, and Texas are red states.

So here’s my solution for the federal deficit: Let’s give red state Teapublicans what they want. Let’s balance the federal spending in those states to the amount they pay in federal taxes. All states can share the cost of national defense, natural emergencies, etc. But when it comes to the cost of highways, roads, bridges, universities, health care and retirement programs, each state is on its own. That means red states will have to raise taxes or dramatically cut services.

Then we’ll see if they still think the federal government is the enemy.

Yelling “Fire” On Radio And TV.

Many years ago, the Supreme Court made it a crime to falsely yell “fire” in a crowded room. It was deemed to be a threat to public safety and, therefore, not covered under the First Amendment protection of free speech.

At the time (1919), the Supreme Court decision could not have foreseen an even greater threat that would be amplified by electronic media.

Since the end of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987, thousands of media outlets and dozens of radio and TV hosts have routinely committed equivalent acts by creating fear of our own government and of each other. Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Bill O’Reilly and many other conservative hosts routinely cause panic over a variety of falsehoods such as proposed regulations against gun violence, tax fairness, voter fraud, the Black Panther(s), Fast & Furious, Solyndra…even the national deficit and debt.

The paranoia they foment has made millions of Americans suspicious of our president, federal agencies, law enforcement…even each other. Their evil rhetoric has led to massive increases in right wing militias, racist groups, gun collectors and doomsday preppers.

What punishment do these nitwits face for creating such panic? None.

Instead, they are rewarded with higher ratings and higher incomes. Their ratings bring in more advertisements for gold, silver and guns. They have become the defacto leaders of the Teapublican Party, having helped drive away most of the Republican moderates. And officials who are elected as the result of their media-driven fear carry their fear-mongering messages into state legislatures and Congress.

As long as they continue to have unfettered access to their electronic megaphones, there will be more political anger, more deadlocks in government, more fear and bickering, more stockpiling of guns, more mass shootings and more unnecessary wars. Of course, we can’t censor what these people say. But we can demand that they stop yelling “fire” and begin to act in the public interest.

It’s time to reinstate the Fairness Doctrine. Tell your Senators and Representatives that you would like to see a return of civility, honesty and trust in our media. We can afford nothing less!

Contrary To NRA Claims, More Guns Equal More Violence.

As Vice-President Joe Biden’s Commission examines ways to prevent another Newtown massacre, the NRA has continued to spew lies about guns. For example, the organization’s leader, Wayne LaPierre, stated that “only answer to a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.” He wants us to believe that we should all be armed.

To make the point, gun nuts often cite Switzerland as an example. Since virtually every able-bodied Swiss man is required to serve in the citizen militia, nearly every Swiss household has a gun. This, say the gun nuts, has resulted in the lowest incidence of gun violence in the world.

They couldn’t be more wrong.

As Switzerland’s gun ownership has increased so, too has its gun violence. Not only have gun murders increased, so have gun suicides. In fact, Switzerland’s murder rate from guns now ranks 4th in the world! And the country recently experienced its own mass shooting.

If that’s the NRA’s vision for America, get ready for even more mass murders and an explosion in gun violence. (As if an average of 32 gun murders a day and 34 mass shootings over the past year isn’t bad enough.)

A better example for ending gun violence in America is what has happened in Australia. After a mass shooting, the conservative government of Australia passed laws banning semi-automatic weapons. The government conducted gun buybacks and made it very difficult to purchase ammunition for semi-automatics. Yet Australians still have access to guns for hunting, target shooting and home defense. They simply no longer have access to weapons designed for mass shootings.

The result?

Gun violence in Australia has dropped dramatically and it’s still falling. Similar measures could work in the US, too. All we need to do is convince our elected officials to listen to us. Not the NRA.