Thursday, April 30, 2015

No License To Discriminate

My Thoughts On Bernie Sanders' Presidential Candidacy

(This caricature of Senator Bernie Sanders is by DonkeyHotey.)

Let me preface my remarks here by saying that I love Senator Bernie Sanders. I think he is one of the two best senators in Washington (with the other being Elizabeth Warren). Bernie understands the problems of this country as well, if not better, than any other politician -- and he understands how those problems can be solved.

Many of my brothers and sisters on the left are celebrating the news that Bernie will announce today that he is a candidate for the presidency -- and will be running in the Democratic primary against Hillary Clinton. I have to admit that my first thought on hearing this news was to be against it. I din't like Bernie abandoning his independent status, and I thought his candidacy could split the party and give a Republican a better chance at winning the White House. But upon further thought, I have changed my mind. I now think his candidacy could be a good thing.

Some on the left believe Bernie's candidacy will force Hillary Clinton to the left. But that is not going to happen. Hillary has overwhelming support among rank-and-file Democrats. Bernie;s support has been around 6% in almost every poll. Even if you add in the Warren supporters, he doesn't top 20% -- and that is a long way from being a threat to Clinton's nomination. And Clinton will not be pressured to move further to the left until someone on the left has a much higher percentage of support than 20% (something approaching 50%).

But Bernie's candidacy could be advantageous in another way. It will show most Americans that she is not as far left as others in the Democratic Party -- and that will make her look even more like a moderate than she already looks. Whether those of us on the left (or our counterparts on the right) like it or not, most American voters are neither left nor right. They are moderates, and they want a president who is a moderate -- and it is those voters who will decide who wins the White House in 2016.

For me, the most important thing is to make sure a Republican extremist (and they are all extremists) doesn't win the presidency in 2016, and the second most important thing is to elect more Democrats to Congress. Hillary Clinton is the candidate who can most easily defeat the Republicans, and the candidate with the longest coattails.

To sum up, I love Bernie Sanders, and I welcome his entrance to the Democratic race for the nomination. But I will not vote for him. My support and my vote will go to Hillary Clinton -- and I urge others to do the same.

Traditional Marriage (Bans)

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Would You Attend A Same-Sex Wedding, If Invited ?

Would you attend a same-sex wedding. It's a valid question, because our society is changing fast and there's a good chance that you will have to make that decision one of these days -- since everyone has family members or friends that are members of the LGBT community (whether you know it or not).

The choice is an easy one for me, because I believe in equal rights for ALL Americans -- and I would never be disrespectful toward my family or friends. And it turns out that an overwhelming majority of Americans agree with me. Note in the chart above that 68% (nearly 7 out of every 10 people) say they would attend a same-sex wedding if invited -- and that includes 56% of Republicans, 70% of Independents, and 80% of Democrats.

This is from a new Reuters / Ipsos Poll -- done between April 23rd and 27th of a random national sample of 1,752 adults, with a margin of error of 2.7 points.

Unwanted Player

Political Cartoon is by Mike Thompson in the Detroit Free Press.

The Baltimore Riots Are A Symptom Of Our Sick Society

For the past few days, Americans have witnessed riots in Baltimore. Some are defending the police in that city and calling the rioters "thugs", while others see those riots as just outrage over police brutality. I think both sides are avoiding the real truth.

Don't get me wrong. I believe there is far too much brutality and racism among this nation's police, and that needs to be addressed. But even fixing that will not solve the problem, because those police are mainly just defending a society that is sick. The real problem goes much deeper.

The truth is that far too many people in this country have been shut out of our society. This has happened because of an unfair justice system, an unfair economy, a still too large unemployment problem, an unfair educational system, and racist attitudes that still pervade our society. These problems have created a large and growing class of people that do not have access to the "American Dream". Americans like to think that everyone in this country enjoys an equal opportunity, but that is a myth. Many people have no opportunity at all.

And don't make the mistake of thinking this problem is just in Baltimore. People have been shut out of our society in every city in this country. And the rage of this exclusion is simmering in all of those cities -- waiting to be touched off by some incident.

More militarization of the police will not solve this problem. Calling in the National Guard will not solve it either. It can only be solved by creating fairer economic, justice, and educational systems -- and by renewing our efforts to stamp out racism and bigotry. That's not an easy solution -- but it is the only solution.

NOTE -- While this is most visible among minorities right now, the problem is not exclusive to them. There are many whites who have also been shut out of our society. Right now, they still think they have access to the political system to better their lot. But if they ever realize the truth, that most politicians don't care about them either, then we could have a huge problem -- a problem that will blow our unfair society apart.

Urban Decathlon

Political Cartoon is by Joel Pett in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott Caves In To Conspiracy Nuts

(This image of Gov. Greg Abbott is from the website of Progress Texas.)

If you had thought there had to be a limit to the pandering of Texas Republican officials to the insane right, then this should change your mind. Governor Abbott has caved in to the conspiracy nuts on the right (who believe the federal government is preparing to declare martial law). The very idea of this is ludicrous, but Abbott shows us there is no ridiculous belief on the right that he (and our state government) will not pander to. Here is how it is described in a blog at the conservative Dallas Morning News:

Gov. Greg Abbott ordered the Texas Guard to monitor federal military exercises in Texas after some citizens have lit up the Internet saying the maneuvers are actually the prelude to martial law.

The operation causing rampant suspicions is a new kind of exercise involving elite teams such as the SEALs and Green Berets from four military branches training over several states from July 15 to Sept. 15

Called Jade Helm 15, the exercise is one of the largest training operations done by the military in response to what it calls the evolving nature of warfare. About 1,200 special operations personnel will be involved and move covertly among the public. They will use military equipment to travel between seven Southwestern states from Texas to California.

On Monday, command spokesman Lt. Col. Mark Lastoria attended a Bastrop County Commissioners Court meeting to answer community questions and was met with hostile fire. Lastoria, in response to some of the questions from the 150 who attended, sought to dispel fears that foreign fighters from the Islamic State were being brought in or that Texans’ guns would be confiscated, according to a report in the Austin American-Statesman.

He was forced to rebut that martial law was underfoot and said misinformation has been spread by those with a “personal agenda.”

“You may have issues with the administration. So be it. But this institution right here has been with you for over 200 years,” he was quoted as saying. “I’ve worn this uniform across five different administrations for 27 years.”

Radio host and conspiracy theorist Alex Jones has been sending out warnings for weeks regarding the exercise, saying it is the U.S. military positioning itself to take over the states and declare martial law.

Abbott apparently has heard the concern and ordered the Guard to monitor the training and U.S. military personnel.

“To address concerns of Texas citizens and ensure that Texas communities remain safe, secure and informed about military procedures occurring in their vicinity, I am directing the TExas State Guard to monitor Operation Jade Helm 15,” Abbott wrote in his letter to the commander of the Texas Guard.

Abbott hedged the suspicion inherent in his message, saying, “The action I take today comes with the recognition of Texas’ long history of supporting our military forces.”

Explanation ?

Political Cartoon is by Jen Sorensen at

It's Just Not Fair

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Are You Mad At The Right People ?

State Percentages On Support For Legal Same-Sex Marriage

The map above was made from information from the Public Religion Research Institute (in their American Values Atlas). They did over 50,000 interviews in the United States during the 52 weeks of 2014 to get these numbers. They found that for the entire year of 2014, about 54% of all Americans supported the legalization of same-sex marriage. The map above shows that support for each individual state.

As you can see, the most serious opposition is in the deep South -- bible-belt states that still want to think marriage is a christian concept. Of course, this is silly -- since marriage is a secular right granted to citizens by the government (just like in other countries). While many marriages are held in religious building and officiated by religious officials, many are not -- but all must have a license from the government.

One thing I think is crazy is that when you substitute the words "civil union" for the word "marriage" the support goes way up, even in the states still trying to fight the legalization of same-sex marriages. This makes no sense at all, since those "civil unions" would have all the same rights and privileges as a "marriage". It turns out that most Americans are not really against the prospect of gays/lesbians having equal rights -- there are just a lot of people hung up on the word "marriage".

It is my servant hope though that by early summer none of those percentages will have any meaning though. Hopefully, the Supreme Court (hearing the cases about banning same-sex marriages right now) will by then have clearly established that ALL Americans have equal rights when it comes to marriage.

Distorted Views

Political Cartoon is by Pat Bagley in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Number Who Self-Identify As Middle Class Has Dropped

We have been hearing from economists for a while now that the number of people in the middle class has dropped (and is still dropping). These economists use income and wealth data to draw those conclusions.

But I found this new Gallup Poll, done between April 9th and 12th, to be very interesting. It shows that individual Americans are realizing the reality of the economic mess this country is in -- and many now realize that they are no longer able to identify themselves as middle class. The percentage identifying themselves as middle class has dropped from 63% in 2000 (before the economy tanked) to only 51% in 2015. That's a 12 point drop in the last 15 years.

Why is this happening? Haven't we been told the recession is over and the economy is recovering? After all, the rich, the Wall Street banks, and the corporations are making more money than ever before. But while that is true, the "recovery" has not reached many other Americans. Too many still find themselves unemployed, and those with a job find their wages are stagnant (and actually losing buying power when inflation is considered).

And while a fair amount of new jobs are being created in most months, far too many of those jobs are low-wage and low-benefit jobs -- jobs that will not put or keep a worker in the middle class. Those jobs are more likely to put a worker on government assistance rolls. Meanwhile, good jobs are still being offshored to other countries (where corporations can pay even lower wages to desperate people).

Our economic system is not as fair as it used to be. Starting in 1980 (and accelerated during the George W. Bush administration), the Republicans started tilting the economic system toward favoring the rich -- and they have blocked all attempts by Democrats to change that. The result is a shrinking middle class, a growing number off poor workers, and a wealth/income gap that is bigger than at any time since the Great Depression (and still growing).

There is only one way this can be changed. The Republicans must be voted out of power in the 2016 election.

(NOTE -- The chart below shows the drop in middle class self-identification between 2008 and 2015.)


Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

William F. Buckley's Grandson Says Conservatives Should Support Same-Sex Marriage Rights

It is assumed by many of us on the left that all conservatives oppose same-sex marriage being legalized, but that is not true. There are some right-wingers who support that legalization, especially among the younger generation.

And one of those conservatives believing in equal marriage rights is Sean Buckley (pictured), the grandson of conservative icon William F. Buckley. He has written a pretty good article over at The Daily Beast saying why he believes conservatives should support same-sex marriage.

This doesn't really surprise me. I think his grandfather would approve of Sean's stand. While I didn't agree with William F. Buckley on many political things, I have always believed that he was one of the few intellectually honest conservatives -- a man willing to re-examine his stands when provided with enough facts, and a man who didn't hate people for disagreeing with his political stands.

Here is part of Sean Buckley's article:

American conservatives hold many different views but there are some core principles that help guide us toward specific policy prescriptions. Conservatives reject the idea of moral relativism and believe there are certain eternal truths regardless of time, place, or culture. We believe the collection of laws and institutions in place today are an amalgamation of human trial and error pursued in the effort to reach those universal truths. Finally, conservative thought demands recognition of our fallible human nature amid the understanding that we are all limited in our pursuit of truth and virtue.

Progress is good, but as Russell Kirk, one of the fathers of American conservative thought, put it: “change and reform are not identical.” As history has made abundantly clear, no country or culture is immune to bad ideas taking hold. Recognizing this, conservatism suggests we should slow the pace of change, especially in times of intense public disagreement. Under this framework, I understand why many conservatives in the U.S. are unnerved by granting the freedom to marry to same-sex couples. Just a few years ago, I stood with them.

But in the past decade, never mind the last century, attitudes and responses towards gay people as individuals and a community as a whole have drastically changed.

Before 2003, it wasn’t legal for two loving, committed individuals of the same sex to enter into what has been the most fundamental building block of our society—marriage. Today, gay and lesbian couples have the freedom to marry in 37 states, with the number poised to keep growing.

A clear majority of Americans now understand that being gay is not a choice. Gradually, this understanding is also extending among conservatives. And over 60% of millennial evangelical youth now support the freedom to marry.

Historically, marriage was primarily considered an economic and political transaction between families. As such, it was too vital of an institution to be entered into solely on the basis of something as irrational as love. It was not until the dawn of the Enlightenment in the 18th century that the idea of marrying primarily for love arrived. Those who opposed this shift saw it as an affront to social order, and rejected it as a dangerous change in the definition of marriage—similar to the arguments today.

But we’ve evolved, and learned that marriage matters for other reasons. At its core the institution of marriage hinges on two individuals committing to one another in life, for life, on a bedrock of love and self-sacrifice, which results in a better environment for raising children.

Above all else, the greatest gift our parents can give us is to teach us how to love—an emotion that gives the human experience both the purpose and meaning that is so critical to a happy and healthy life. I count this as one of the greatest gifts my parents have given me, and hope to one day give the same to my kids. Conservatives are right to argue that the best environment to raise children is within a marriage. However, it has nothing to do with the gender of their parents but instead the love they have for one another.

Most people would agree that the shift from marriage focused on political considerations to marriage built on love was for the best. What they may not consider is that at its core, this shift was in recognition of a universal right to follow one’s heart. In this, granting the freedom to marry to all loving couples is not a shift from the central tenet of marriage, but instead a fulfillment of its most basic ideals.

Gay couples today are building families and raising children. If we as conservatives care about preserving marriage and family, we must include gay people in the equation.

As a Young Conservative for the Freedom to Marry, I believe that individuals have the power and ability to make decisions for themselves better than any government can. For conservatives who likely agree, I ask: why does this suddenly change when it comes to whom one loves and chooses to marry? This is a fight specific to the LGBT community, but it is also a fight for the rights of individual self-determination—a cause conservatives should always be ready and willing to fight for.

As the Supreme Court prepares to consider whether all loving couples should have the freedom to marry, it is time for conservatives to recognize that just as individual liberty should not depend on a person’s gender or race, it should not depend on whom a person loves, either.

New God

Political Cartoon is by Chan Lowe in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.

Equality Is A Necessity

Tuesday, April 28, 2015


Americans Don't Want A Military Intervention In Iran

Congressional Republicans seem to be doing their best to stop, or at least interfere with the negotiations with Iran (to keep them from developing nuclear weapons). And several Republicans have already called for military action against Iran (in spite of the fact that we are already involved in wars in two other countries -- Afghanistan and Iraq). They seem to think we could achieve an easy victory by attacking Iran. Obviously, they have learned nothing from our other engagements in that part of the world.

Fortunately, the American people are smarter than congressional Republicans. They know we have no business starting a third war -- especially since it has become obvious that we cannot win the conflicts we are already engaged in, but just seem to be creating new enemies for this country. When asked if they would prefer a military intervention or a negotiated settlement in Iran, an overwhelming majority (77% to 13%) said they wanted a negotiated settlement. They don't want a new war (and that includes the Republican base).

President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry have successfully negotiated a preliminary settlement with Iran, and the process of putting that into writing is now happening. Unfortunately, most of the congressional Republicans (and too many Democrats) think that settlement is not enough, and they are trying to stop it. But that is also contrary to the will of the general public in this country. Note in the chart below that a significant majority (58% to 33%) support the President's negotiated agreement.

These charts are from a recent Quinnipiac University Poll -- done between April 16th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,353 registered voters, with a margin of error of 2.7 points.

Making New Terrorists

Political Cartoon is by Bob Englehart in the Hartford Courant.

Amarillo Teacher Named "National Teacher Of The Year"

Amarillo is justifiably proud of one of its own citizens right now. It has been announced that Shanna Peeples (pictured here in a photo from, an English teacher at Palo Duro High School, has been named the National Teacher of the Year. It is the first time since 1957 that a Texas teacher received the honor -- and the first time ever for an Amarillo teacher.

Peeples will be recognized by President Obama in a White House ceremony on Wednesday, and at the end of this school year she will take a year off from teaching to make about 150 appearances around the country as the Teacher of the Year. She hopes to highlight the problem of poverty as it relates to education. Peoples said:

“That fact brings a whole constellation of challenges — how hard it is to try to learn when you’re hungry, or when you’re sick and can’t afford to go to the doctor, or when you have to move out of your home in the middle of the night because you can’t afford the rent. That’s unfortunately what so many teachers are dealing with. The good news about that is for so many of those kids the story that starts out that way sometimes ends with such an amazing personal triumph for students.”


Political Cartoon is by Rob Rogers in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Supreme Court To Hear Marriage Equality Cases This Week

(This image is from the website Every Day, Another Song.)

You may have noticed that I have been posting about same-sex marriage quite a bit recently. There are two reasons for that. First, I believe in equal rights for ALL Americans without exception, and second, this is the week that the Supreme Court will finally hear the cases on marriage equality -- and hopefully will issue a decision in a couple of months that will outlaw all state bans on same-sex marriage.

I believe the court will decide in favor of equal rights, and outlaw the remaining state bans. But even if they don't, this is an issue that has already been decided by the American public. Poll after poll has shown that a significant (and growing) percentage of Americans are now in favor of legalizing same-sex marriages. Let me add one more poll to that list (see below) -- the Quinnipiac University Poll (done between April 16th and 21st of a random national sample of 1,353 registered voters, with a 2.7 point margin of error).

This latest survey shows that at least 58% of American favor legalizing same-sex marriages, while only 34% oppose that -- a whopping 24 point gap in favor of equality! Only one group has a majority in opposition -- Republicans. But other gender, age, and political groups show significant support.

This poses a dilemma for Republican candidates running for president. They must run in the whole nation (not in some safe district or state), and the quickly changing attitude of most Americans toward same-sex marriage has them worried. Their religious bigotry may serve them well in the GOP primaries, but it's not going to help in the general election -- it's going to hurt them, and they know it.

It will be interesting to see what these candidates do in the coming months. Some will undoubtably stick to their bigotry (trying to win the GOP primaries by appealing to evangelicals), while others will probably try to avoid the issue. I suspect that latter group is hoping the Supreme Court settles the matter and the controversy dies down before they have to face the voters.


Political Cartoon is by Matt Wuerker at

Pro-Choice AND Pro-Abortion

Far too often these days we hear those on the side of a woman's right to control her own body say that they are pro-choice, but not pro-abortion. That doesn't make much sense to me. It infers that somehow, in the back of their mind, these people think there is something morally suspect about having an abortion -- even though they support the right of a woman to choose that option.

I don't believe that. I think abortion is simply a medical procedure -- a procedure that can be beneficial to a woman, a family, and to our society. In other words, I am both pro-choice and pro-abortion. That may sound harsh to some of you, but I ask -- how can you be pro-choice without also being pro-abortion?

Here is how Valerie Tarico puts it in her excellent article for -- where she gives 10 reasons why she is pro-abortion (and we should be also). Tarico says:

Recently, the Daily Kos published an article titled I Am Pro-Choice, Not Pro-Abortion. “Has anyone ever truly been pro-abortion?” one commenter asked.
Uh. Yes. Me. That would be me.
I am pro-abortion like I’m pro-knee-replacement and pro-chemotherapy and pro-cataract surgery. As the last protection against ill-conceived childbearing when all else fails, abortion is part of a set of tools that help women and men to form the families of their choosing. I believe that abortion care is a positive social good. I suspect that a lot of other people secretly believe the same thing. And I think it’s time we said so.
As an aside, I’m also pro-choice. Choice is about who gets to make the decision. The question of whether and when we bring a new life into the world is, to my mind, one of the most important decisions a person can make. It is too big a decision for us to make for each other, and especially for perfect strangers.
But independent of who owns the decision, I’m pro on the procedure, and I’ve decided that it’s time, for once and for all, to count it out on my 10 fingers.
1. I’m pro-abortion because being able to delay and limit childbearing is fundamental to female empowerment and equality. A woman who lacks the means to manage her fertility lacks the means to manage her life. Any plans, dreams, aspirations, responsibilities or commitments–no matter how important–have a great big contingency clause built: “until or unless I get pregnant, in which case all bets are off.”
Think of any professional woman you know. She wouldn’t be in that role if she hadn’t been able to time and limit her childbearing. Think of any girl you know who imagines becoming a professional woman. She won’t get there unless she has effective, reliable means to manage her fertility. In generations past, nursing care was provided by nuns and teachers were spinsters, because avoiding sexual intimacy was the only way women could avoid unpredictable childbearing and so be freed up to serve their communities in other capacities. But if you think that abstinence should be our model for modern fertility management, consider the mass graves that get found every so often under old nunneries.
2. I’m pro-abortion because well-timed pregnancies give children a healthier start in life. We now have ample evidence that babies do best when women are able to space their pregnancies and get both pre-natal and pre-conception care. The specific nutrients we ingest in the weeks before we get pregnant can have a lifelong effect on the wellbeing of our offspring. Rapid repeat pregnancies increase the risk of low birthweight babies and other complications. Wanted babies are more likely to get their toes kissed, to be welcomed into families that are financially and emotionally ready to receive them, to get preventive medical care during childhood and the kinds of loving engagement that helps young brains to develop.
3. I’m pro-abortion because I take motherhood seriously. Most female bodies can incubate a baby, and thanks to antibiotics, cesareans and anti-hemorrhage drugs, most of us are able to survive pushing a baby out into the world. But parenting is a lot of work, and doing it well takes twenty dedicated years of focus, attention, patience, persistence, social support, mental health, money, and a whole lot more. This is the biggest, most life-transforming thing most of us will ever do. The idea that women should simply go with it when they find themselves pregnant after a one-night-stand, or a rape, or a broken condom completely trivialized motherhood.
4. I’m pro-abortion because intentional childbearing helps couples, families and communities to get out of poverty. Decades of research in countries ranging from the U.S. to Bangladesh show that reproductive policy is economic policy. It is no coincidence that the American middle class rose along with the ability of couples to plan their families, starting at the beginning of the last century. Having two or three kids instead of eight or ten was critical to prospering in the modern industrial economy. Early unsought childbearing nukes economic opportunity and contributes to multi-generational poverty. Today in the U.S., unsought pregnancy and childbearing is declining for everyone but the poorest families and communities, contributing to what some call a growing “caste system” in America. Strong, determined girls and women sometimes beat the odds, but their stories inspire us precisely because they are the exception to the rule. Justice dictates that the full range of fertility management tools including the best state-of-the-art contraceptive technologies and, when that fails, abortion care be equally available to all, not just a privileged few.
5. I’m pro-abortion because reproduction is a highly imperfect process. Genetic recombination is a complicated progression with flaws and false starts at every step along the way. To compensate, in every known species including humans, reproduction operates as a big funnel. Many more eggs and sperm are produced than will ever meet; more combine into embryos than will ever implant; more implant than will grow into babies; and more babies are born than will grow up to have babies of their own. This systematic culling makes God or nature the world’s biggest abortion provider: Nature’s way of producing healthy kids essentially requires every woman to have an abortion mill built into her own body.
In humans, an estimated 60-80 percent of fertilized eggs self-destruct before becoming babies, which is why the people who kill the most embryos are those like the Duggarswho try to maximize their number of pregnancies. But the weeding-out process is also highly imperfect. Sometimes perfectly viable combinations boot themselves out; sometimes horrible defects slip through. A woman’s body may be less fertile when she is stressed or ill or malnourished, but as pictures of skeletal moms and babies show, some women conceive even under devastating circumstances. Like any other medical procedure, therapeutic contraception and abortion complement natural processes designed to help us survive and thrive.
6. I’m pro-abortion because I think morality is about the well-being of sentient beings. I believe that morality is about the lived experience of sentient beings—beings who can feel pleasure and pain, preference and intention, who at their most complex can live in relation to other beings, love and be loved and value their own existence.
What are they capable of wanting? What are they capable of feeling? These are the questions my husband and I explored with our kids when they were figuring out their responsibility to their chickens and guinea pigs. It was a lesson that turned expensive, when the girls stopped drinking milk from cows that didn’t get to see the light of day or eat grass, but it’s not one I regret. Do unto others as they want you to do unto them. It’s called the Platinum Rule. In this moral universe, real people count more than potential people, hypothetical people or corporate people.
7. I’m pro-abortion because contraceptives are imperfect, and people are too. The Pill is 1960’s technology, now half a century old. For decades, women were told the Pill was 99 percent effective, and they blamed themselves when they got pregnant anyways. But that 99 percent is a “perfect use” statistics, and in the real world, where most of us live, people aren’t perfect. In the real world, 1 in 11 women relying on the Pill gets pregnant each year. For a couple relying on condoms, that’s 1 in 6. Young and poor women—those whose lives are least predictable and most vulnerable to being thrown off course—are also those who have the most difficulty taking pills consistently. Pill technology most fails those who need it most, which makes abortion access a matter not only of compassion but of justice.
State-of-the-art IUDs and Implants radically change this equation, largely because they take human error out of the picture for years on end, or until a woman wants a baby. And despite the deliberate misinformation being spread by opponents, these methods are genuine contraceptives, not abortifacients. Depending on the method chosen, they disable sperm or block their path, or prevent an egg from being released. Once settled into place, an IUD or implant drops the annual pregnancy rate below 1 in 500. And guess what. Teen pregnancies and abortions plummet—which makes me happy, because even though I’m pro-abortion, I’d love the need for abortion to go away. Why mitigate harm when you can prevent it?
8. I’m pro-abortion because I believe in mercy, grace, compassion, and the power of fresh starts. Many years ago, my friend Chip was driving his family on vacation when his kids started squabbling. His wife Marla undid her seatbelt to help them, and as Chip looked over at her their top-heavy minivan veered onto the shoulder and then rolled, and Marla died. Sometimes people make mistakes or have accidents that they pay for the rest of their lives. But I myself have swerved onto the shoulder and simply swerved back. The price we pay for a lapse in attention or judgment, or an accident of any kind isn’t proportional to the error we made.
Who among us hasn’t had unprotected sex when the time or situation or partnership wasn’t quite right for bringing a new life into the world? Most of the time we get lucky; sometimes we don’t. And in those situations we rely on the mercy, compassion, and generosity of others.
In this regard, an unsought pregnancy is like any other accident. I can walk today only because surgeons reassembled my lower leg after it was crushed between the front of a car and a bicycle frame when I was a teen. And I can walk today (and run and jump) because another team of surgeons re-assembled my knee-joint after I fell off a ladder. And I can walk today (and bicycle with my family) because a third team of surgeons repaired my other knee after I pulled a whirring brush mower onto myself, cutting clear through bone. Three accidents, all my own doing, and three knee surgeries. Some women have three abortions.
9. I’m pro-abortion because the future is always in motion, and we have the power and responsibility to shape it well. As a college student, I read a Ray Bradbury storyabout a man who travels back into prehistory on a “time safari.” The tourists have been coached about the importance of not disturbing anything lest they change the flow of history. When they return to the present, they realize that the outcome of an election has changed, and they discover that the protagonist who had gone off the trail, has a crushed butterfly on the bottom of his shoe.
In baby making, as in Bradbury’s story, the future is always in motion, and every little thing we do has consequences we have no way to predict. Any small change means a different child comes into the world. Which nights your mother had headaches, the sexual position of your parents when they conceived you, whether or not your mother rolled over in bed afterwards—if any of these things had been different, someone else would be here instead of you. Every day, men and women make small choices and potential people wink into and out of existence. We move, and our movements ripple through time in ways that are incomprehensible, and we can never know what the alternate futures might have been.
But some things we can know or predict, at least at the level of probability, and I think this knowledge provides a basis for guiding wise reproductive decisions. My friend Judy says that parenting begins before conception. I agree. How and when, we choose to carry forward a new life can stack the odds in favor of our children or against them, and to me that is a sacred trust.
10. I’m pro-abortion because I love my daughter. I first wrote the story of my own abortion when Dr. Tiller was murdered and I couldn’t bear the thought of abortion providers standing in the crosshairs alone. “My Abortion Baby” was about my daughter, Brynn, who exists only because a kind doctor like George Tiller gave me and my husband the gift of a fresh start when we learned that our wanted pregnancy was unhealthy. Brynn literally embodies the ever changing flow of the future, because she could not exist in an alternate universe in which I would have carried that first pregnancy to term. She was conceived while I would still have been pregnant with a child we had begun to imagine, but who never came to be.
My husband and I felt very clear that carrying forward that pregnancy would have been a violation of our values, and neither of us ever second guessed our decision. Even so, I grieved. Even when I got pregnant again a few months later, I remember feeling petulant and thinking, I want that baby, not this one. And then Brynn came out into the world and I looked into her eyes, and I fell in love and never looked back.
All around us, living breathing and loving are the chosen children of mothers who waited—who ended an ill-timed or unhealthy pregnancy and then later chose to carry forward a new life. “I was only going to have two children,” my friend, Jane said as her daughters raced, screeching joyfully, across my lawn. Jane followed them with her eyes. “My abortions let me have these two when the time was right, with someone I loved.”
Those who see abortion as an unmitigated evil often talk about the “millions of missing people” who were not born into this world because a pregnant woman decided, not now. But they never talk about the millions of children and adults who are here today only because their mothers had abortions—real people who exist in this version of the future, people who are living out their lives all around us–loving and laughing and suffering and struggling and dancing and dreaming, and having babies of their own.
When those who oppose abortion lament the “missing people,” I hear an echo of my own petulant thought: I want that person, not this one. And I wish that they could simply experience what I did, that they could look into the beautiful eyes of the people in front of them, and fall in love.

Law Enforcement 101

Political Cartoon is by Mike Stanfill at

Minimum Wage - 1968/2014

Monday, April 27, 2015

Socialism / Capitalism

Hillary Clinton Looks Very Strong In New Hampshire

Charts were made from information in the new Public Policy Polling survey -- done between April 9th and 13th of a random sample of 747 New Hampshire voters, with a margin of error of 3.6 points.

Hillary Clinton was the overwhelming choice of New Hampshire Democrats, and Scott Walker was the choice of the state's Republicans by a significant margin. But it really doesn't matter who the Republicans liked, because Clinton easily defeats any of the GOP hopefuls (and by about the same margins). New Hampshire is definitely trending Democratic -- at least as far as the presidency in 2016 goes.

It's also interesting that both the second and third place Democrats (Warren and Biden) also would beat the top Republican in New Hampshire, but not by as large a margin as Hillary Clinton (see chart below).

Prize Pooch

Political Cartoon is by John Cole in the Scranton Times-Tribune.

Texas Refuses Medicaid Expansion - & Hospitals May Close

(This image is from the website

Texas leads the nation in both the number and percentage of uninsured citizens (with more than a quarter of the state's population being uninsured) -- and about 2 million of those people are poor people, who cannot afford to buy insurance. This has always caused a problem for hospitals, since these people clog up emergency rooms when they get sick. They have to do that since they cannot afford preventative care at a doctor's office.

But the problem goes further than overcrowded emergency rooms. While hospitals have to treat these people, they do not get paid for that treatment. To cover the costs, public hospitals need more city and county tax money -- and all hospitals must raise their prices for other patients (which just increases the number of people who cannot afford care). It was a real problem that had many hospitals in financial trouble.

Right after the passage of the Affordable Care Act, the federal government came to the rescue. They agreed to give Texas about $4 billion dollars a year for five years to help defray the cost of free care being given by hospitals through their emergency rooms. The thought at the time was that Texas would expand Medicaid in that five-year period -- giving poor people insurance so they could pay for both preventative care and hospital care (and removing the need for hospitals to provide free emergency room care).

But then the Supreme Court decided that states did not have to expand Medicaid -- and Texas Republicans decided not to do it. It was a political decision, ignoring the needs of the poor in Texas, designed to please the teabagger base of the Texas GOP. But that move was not only heartless, it was also short-sighted -- since the federal money is about to end.

The federal money (about $4 billion a year) to help subsidize free emergency room care will end at the end of next year. And the federal government has notified the state of Texas that there will not be a renewal of that agreement. Washington sees no reason to keep giving Texas this free money since the state refuses to expand Medicaid -- which would give those patients both preventative and hospital care, and remove the need for hospitals to cover the cost of that care.

The federal government is right. They should stop giving the money. There is no legitimate reason for the state to refuse to expand Medicaid (since the federal government would pay all of the costs of that expansion at first, and 90% after that). Continuing the free money would just allow the state to continue playing political games with the Affordable Care Act, while denying badly needed preventative care to the poor (resulting in unnecessary deaths, since by the time these people are sick enough to go to the emergency room, it is too late to treat some of their diseases).

The Republican governor and legislature has the legal right to refuse to expand Medicaid. The Supreme Court gave them that right. But they do not have the right to keep getting federal money by refusing that expansion. It is time for the Texas Republican-dominated legislature to stop playing political games on the backs of the state's poor people, and expand Medicaid. If they don't, the hospitals will be back in the same financial trouble they were in several years ago -- and many of them will have to close their doors (hurting not only the poor, but everyone in those communities).

I think the lives of Texas citizens, and their access to a quality community hospital, is far too important to continue refusing Medicaid expansion. Unfortunately, Texas Republican legislators think getting teabagger votes is more important -- and that is shameful.


Political Cartoon is by Steve Sack in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Businesses Should Be Required To Serve Same-Sex Couples

This chart was made from information in a new CNN / ORC Poll -- done between April 16th and 19th of a random national sample of 1,018 adults, with a 3 point margin of error.

Recently, the state of Indiana tried to pass a law allowing businesses to discriminate against the LGBT community (specifically, same-sex couples). There was such an uproar among the general public in this country that Indiana legislators and their governor quickly rescinded the portion of the law that would allow businesses to discriminate.

This chart shows why there was such an outrage. Americans don't like it when businesses discriminate. The public believes if you are in business to serve the public, you should serve all of the public -- and that includes same-sex couples (regardless of your personal religious beliefs). That's the opinion of 57% of Americans, with only 41% disagreeing (a 16 point difference).

The country is changing, and with each passing day we come closer to realizing the dream of equality for all.

On The Road

Political Cartoon is by Stuart Carlson at

Shooting Down 10 Of The NRA's Pro-Gun Myths

(This image is from the website of Mother Jones.)

The NRA and other pro-gun lobbyists have told a lot of lies to keep selling guns (since they are little more than shills for the gun manufacturers these days). Dave Gilson at Mother Jones looks at these myths and exposes them. Here is what he has to say:

Myth #1: They're coming for your guns.
Fact-check: No one knows the exact number of guns in America, but it's clear there's no practical way to round them all up (never mind that no one in Washington is proposing this). Yet if you fantasize about rifle-toting citizens facing down the government, you'll rest easy knowing that America's roughly 80 million gun owners already have the feds and cops outgunned by a factor of around 79 to 1.

Myth #2: Guns don't kill people—people kill people.
Fact-check: People with more guns tend to kill more people—with guns. The states with the highest gun ownership rates have a gun murder rate 114% higherthan those with the lowest gun ownership rates. Also, gun death rates tend to be higher in states with higher rates of gun ownership. Gun death rates are generally lower in states with restrictions such as assault-weapons bans or safe-storage requirements. Update: A recent study looking at 30 years of homicide data in all 50 states found that for every one percent increase in a state's gun ownership rate, there is a nearly one percent increase in its firearm homicide rate.

Myth #3: An armed society is a polite society.
Fact-check: Drivers who carry guns are 44% more likely than unarmed drivers to make obscene gestures at other motorists, and 77% more likely to follow them aggressively.
• Among Texans convicted of serious crimes, those with concealed-handgun licenses were sentenced for threatening someone with a firearm 4.8 times morethan those without.
• In states with Stand Your Ground and other laws making it easier to shoot in self-defense, those policies have been linked to a 7 to 10% increase in homicides.

Myth #4: More good guys with guns can stop rampaging bad guys.
Fact-check: Mass shootings stopped by armed civilians in the past 30 years: 0
• Chances that a shooting at an ER involves guns taken from guards: 1 in 5

Myth #5: Keeping a gun at home makes you safer.
Fact-check: Owning a gun has been linked to higher risks of homicidesuicide, and accidental death by gun.
• For every time a gun is used in self-defense in the home, there are 7 assaults or murders, 11 suicide attempts, and 4 accidents involving guns in or around a home.
• 43% of homes with guns and kids have at least one unlocked firearm.
• In one experiment, one third of 8-to-12-year-old boys who found a handgun pulled the trigger.

Myth #6: Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer.
Fact-check: In 2011, nearly 10 times more people were shot and killed in arguments than by civilians trying to stop a crime.
• In one survey, nearly 1% of Americans reported using guns to defend themselves or their property. However, a closer look at their claims found that more than 50% involved using guns in an aggressive manner, such as escalating an argument.
• A Philadelphia study found that the odds of an assault victim being shot were 4.5 times greater if he carried a gun. His odds of being killed were 4.2 times greater.

Myth #7: Guns make women safer.
Fact-check: In 2010, nearly 6 times more women were shot by husbands, boyfriends, and ex-partners than murdered by male strangers.
• A woman's chances of being killed by her abuser increase more than 7 times if he has access to a gun.
• One study found that women in states with higher gun ownership rates were 4.9 times more likely to be murdered by a gun than women in states with lower gun ownership rates.

Myth #8: "Vicious, violent video games" deserve more blame than guns.
Fact-check: So said NRA executive vice president Wayne LaPierre after Newtown. So what's up with Japan?
United StatesJapan
Per capita spending
on video games
Civilian firearms
per 100 people
Gun homicides
in 2008

Myth #9: More and more Americans are becoming gun owners. 
Fact-check: More guns are being sold, but they're owned by a shrinking portion of the population.
• About 50% of Americans said they had a gun in their homes in 1973. Today, about 45% say they do. Overall, 35% of Americans personally own a gun.
• Around 80% of gun owners are men. On average they own 7.9 guns each.

Myth #10: We don't need more gun laws—we just need to enforce the ones we have.
 Weak laws and loopholes backed by the gun lobby make it easier to get guns illegally.
• Around 40% of all legal gun sales involve private sellers and don't require background checks. 40% of prison inmates who used guns in their crimes got them this way.
• An investigation found 62% of online gun sellers were willing to sell to buyers who said they couldn't pass a background check.
• 20% of licensed California gun dealers agreed to sell handguns to researchers posing as illegal "straw" buyers.
• The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives did not have a permanent director for 7 years, due to an NRA-backed requirement that the Senate approve nominees.