Black Lives Matter

Black Lives Matter.  BLACK.  LIVES.  MATTER.

Of course, Black lives matter.  Or at least they should.  But here in the United States, like many other places, we haven’t done a good job of acting like it.  Certainly not during slavery and when the country was founded and not during Jim Crow and the Tuskegee experiments and not when single-residence zoning and racist real estate agents and gerrymandering school zones worked to keep segregation in effect after segregated schools and deed restrictions were deemed unconstitutional by the Supreme Court and not during the Civil Rights Movement when Martin Luther King, Jr. was beaten and arrested and assassinated and many other peaceful protestors were beaten and murdered and not during the Vietnam War when young Black men were sent to jungles in Southeast Asia while rich white kids feigned bone spurs and got extra degrees and not during the late 80s or early 90s when police departments like the LAPD would beat people like Rodney King with impunity and not last month when it took 10 weeks and a video to become public for white guys in Georgia who chased and killed a Black jogger to get indicted for murder and not last week when George Floyd was killed by a police officer as other police officers stood by while helpless bystanders pleaded for his life or today when Black maternal mortality rates are far higher than whites’.

So, yeah, I get the slogan.

But Black lives aren’t the only thing that matters.  To become a better country and better society, we need more than Black people merely surviving.  Survival should be the bare minimum.  We should want Black people to thrive.  So we should also demand dignity for Black people.  And respect.  And love.

Because while it would be so much better if George Floyd had survived, he still should not have been handcuffed and thrown on the ground for allegedly forging a check or using counterfeit cash or whatever bullshit he was suspected of doing.

And it would be incredible if Breonna Taylor hadn’t been shot and killed in her own apartment, but it would be even better if plain-clothes officers did not use no-knock warrants in the middle of the night looking for drugs.

And it would be so wonderful if Trayvon Martin had survived his encounter with George Zimmerman, but in addition to seeing their twentieth birthday, it would be great if Black teenagers could go buy skittles and walk home without being harassed by gun-toting vigilantes.

And while I wish so dearly that Sandra Bland had survived her time in jail, she should not have been forced out of her car or violently arrested for failing to signal.

And my heart would feel so much better if Tamir Rice had survived being shot by a police officer, but no 12-year-old child should have to deal with the trauma of being shot at by police while playing in the park.

We need massive change.  We need meaningful civilian oversight boards for police departments.  We need to get rid of qualified immunity for police officers.  We need to outlaw certain maneuvers, including, but not limited to, chokehold maneuvers and strangleholds.  We need to require de-escalation.  We need to require warnings before shooting.  We need to allow police officers to use lethal force in only the most necessary situations.  We need to stop outfitting our police departments with tactical and military gear.  We need a duty to intervene when other officers are engaging in brutal or illegal actions.  We need to ban shooting at moving vehicles.  We need to require all force to be reported.  We need community policing.  We need all people and all communities, including and especially Black ones, to get the same kind of policing that rich white communities receive.

And we need to teach our kids, and friends, and parents and aunts and uncles and grandparents, and siblings and cousins, and acquaintances and colleagues to love and respect Black people (while also loving indigenous people and Asians and Muslims and Jews and Hindus and Christians and Buddhists and atheists and Latinx … and LGBTQ people … and on and on).

We need to educate ourselves and our communities. Register. Vote. March. Call. Write.  Scream if necessary.  Not just today.  Not just tomorrow.  But for as long as the work is necessary.  And it is so necessary.

Black Lives Matter.  Let’s act like it.

Assault Rifles Are Not Protected By The Second Amendment

Any time the issue of gun safety is brought up in the United States, politicians mention the Second Amendment.  Republicans tend to use the Second Amendment as a rationale for not taking any steps to increase gun safety.  Democrats tend to mention their respect for the Second Amendment while stating the common-sense precautions they would like to enact.  One of the biggest goals of gun safety advocates, especially since the horrific massacre at Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, is a nationwide ban on assault rifles.  We should be having this conversation without discussing the Second Amendment.  Why?  Assault rifles are not protected by the Second Amendment.

“What?” you say.  “How could that be?”  The current interpretation of the Second Amendment, both by the media (regardless of partisanship lean) and the Supreme Court (the people who really matter), is that the Second Amendment protects individuals’ rights to own guns for self-defense purposes.  This is broadly accepted despite the fact that this framing of the Second Amendment is contrary to centuries of accepted legal doctrine.  The Second Amendment was signed in 1791.  The first time the Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment applies to individuals for self-defense purposes was in 2008, less than 10 year ago, in Heller v. District of Columbia.

What changed?  A right-wing movement and right-wing judges.  After a decades-long effort to sway public opinion, elected officials, and groom right-wing judges, the NRA, with a massive assist from the Federalist Society and other right-wing organizations, finally got their desired result.

In Heller, the Supreme Court, by a 5-4 majority, held that the Second Amendment protects an individual’s right to own a gun for self defense purposes and invalidated some provisions of a Washington, DC law that made it illegal to possess handguns in the city.  The opinion is not good for a number of reasons: it misreads relevant precedent (and has no precedent on which to rely), its textual argument (the supposed basis for the holding) is twisted–it begins with the end of the text it attempts to interpret before moving on to the beginning, and it leads to a shitty policy outcome.*

But here’s the thing: Heller is currently the law of the land.  Whether, like me and plenty of others, you think it’s a bad decision or it’s the masterpiece of a legal genius, courts across the country are bound to follow it.  Even Heller, however, does not prevent the federal government or states from enacting bans on assault rifles.

Some gun fanatics claim that any law that would outlaw or make it more difficult to obtains guns, ammunition, or accessories is a violation of the Second Amendment.  These arguments, often by people claiming to love and want to protect the Constitution, overlook our legal system and how it’s the courts’ job to interpret the Constitution.

Scalia’s majority opinion in Heller makes it crystal clear that the right to “keep and bear arms,” is not absolute.  “Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited.”  128 S. Ct. at 2816.  “[N]othing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms.”  Id. at 2816-17.  The Court also recognized “another important limitation on the right to keep and carry arms,” that only guns in common use at the time are covered by the Second Amendment–dangerous and unusual weapons are not.  Id. at 2817.

Heller’s explicit limitations on the scope of the Second Amendment mean that there is no constitutional impediment to banning assault rifles.

Many lower courts (district courts and courts of appeals) have upheld bans on assault rifles.  For example, in Kolbe v. Hogan, the Fourth Circuit, en banc, upheld Maryland’s post-Sandy Hook ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.  The majority opinion, which had the support of ten judges versus four dissenters, stated that “[b]ecause the banned assault weapons and large-capacity magazines are clearly most useful in military service, we are compelled by Heller to recognize that those weapons and magazines are not constitutionally protected.” 849 F.3d at 138 (emphasis added).  Like in the other cases upholding bans on assault rifles, the Supreme Court declined to review the case.  Supreme Court justices tend not to be shy.  If they believed that the Second Amendment was being violated, they would say so.  But they don’t.

Because assault rifles are not protected by the Constitution, the only impediments to passing bans on assault rifles, which will save lives, is public opinion and political power.  Public opinion is increasingly in favor of banning assault weapons.  Federally and in many states, political power prevents any such action from happening.  That means we need to translate public opinion into political power.

If everyone who supports gun safety votes for politicians who support gun safety laws, we’ll be able to effect the change we want to see in the world.  There are plenty of organizations doing great work on this front, including Everytown, Moms Demand Action, and March For Our Lives.  The next time there’s a gun massacre we’ll be forced once again to grapple with the fact that the Constitution isn’t causing our devastatingly high gun violence rates.  It’s our politics and politicians.




*If you don’t think Scalia was outcome-oriented, read United States v. Lopez (a 1995 case in which Scalia voted with the majority that Congress could not impose gun-free zones around schools because the Commerce Clause of the Constitution did not grant it that power) and Gonzales v. Raich (a 2005 case in which Scalia voted with the majority that Congress could make possession of marijuana illegal, including when applied to a person who grew and consumed their own marijuana without selling it to another person, pursuant to the Commerce Clause).  And then, if you really want to feel nauseated, read United States v. Morrison (a 2000 case in which Scalia voted with the majority to invalidate provisions of the Violence Against Women Act because the Commerce Clause did not provide Congress power to police gender violence, despite mountains of Congressional evidence of the relationship between gender-based violence and commerce) and Bush v. Gore (perhaps the worst Supreme Court opinion of this decade: the 5-4, unsigned opinion joined by Scalia holding that a Florida court decision on Florida election law was a violation of the Constitution’s Equal Protection Clause because, and really there isn’t any other reason, every justice appointed by a Republican president wanted George W. Bush to be president).

Education As A Path To Prosperity

Here’s a great WSJ article on how much universities contribute to the economic well-being of the areas where they’re located.  Education is a great investment: money spent on universities leads to inventions that benefit society and educated workers improve the economy.

Sadly, though, one political party in the US loves to cut education spending.  In Kansas, Republican Governor Brownback signed a huge tax cut for the rich and then cut education spending to cover the ensuing budget deficit.  In Louisiana, under a Republican legislature and former Governor Bobby Jindal, the state gave a tax cut to the rich and then cut higher education funding (not to mention many other services) by tens of millions, but the state is still in a budget crisis of billions of dollars.  Of course, not all Republicans are anti-education.  Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval, a Republican, used tax increases to fund a “landmark overhaul in public education.”  His constituents appreciate it; he has an approval rating in the mid-to-high 60s.  But he is maligned by conservative Republicans, such as Republican Assemblyman Ira Hansen, who called Sandoval’s actions “a dramatic betrayal.”

Just as income inequality is increasing, it’s quite possible that the the inequality between states will increase.  States that invest in education will likely be rewarded.  Their educated populations will be better situated to handle globalization and the increased automation of blue collar jobs.  States that don’t will likely be left behind.  Their full-time residents may care, but those who “reside” there for tax purposes probably couldn’t care less.

This Plot Seems Familiar

In a move that is disheartening for scientists, environmentalists, and humans who live in a reality-based world, Donald Trump is reportedly going to pick Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt to run the EPA.

Why is it disheartening?  The EPA is supposed to protect the environment.  It’s right there in the name: Environmental Protection Agency.  Just about everybody, including Chevron, ExxonMobil, and Shell, believe that climate change is a serious issue that puts the world at risk and that greenhouse gas emissions need to be reduced.  Unfortunately, Scott Pruit is not in the “just about everybody” camp.  Pruitt is currently using his position as Oklahoma’s AG to sue the EPA.  But not just once.  He’s currently suing the EPA, the agency he may soon run, over the agency’s Clean Power Plan, which aims to reduce emissions in the electricity sector, and regulations regarding methane emissions in the oil and gas sector.

And I don’t want to besmirch the president-elect and imply that he may be acting inconsistently with his promises to “drain the swamp” and get rid of conflicts of interest in Washington, but there’s a lot of evidence that Pruitt is a pawn of the oil and gas industry.  In 2011, for example, he sent letters to the EPA in his official capacity that were literally written by lawyers and lobbyists from oil-and-gas company Devon.  His political campaigns, including ones in which he ran unopposed, have been bankrolled by energy companies (and not the clean ones).

So it seems that Trump, notwithstanding Ivanka’s smokescreen of a meeting with Al Gore, is intent on accelerating climate change rather than avoiding it.

An evil businessman with inexhaustible wealth and political influence bringing about rising seas, less land, and chaos all for financial gain?  If this sounds familiar, it’s because it’s the plot to Superman Returns.  The only difference is that Trump opted for surgery instead of embracing going bald like Lex Luthor.  Perhaps the clearest sign that this is not all coincidence: This year, Pruitt wrote an op-ed in the conservative National Review questioning climate change with Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange.  Strange indeed.

We Can’t Normalize This

It happened again.  Another abnormal, recent-experience-defying, convention-busting, historical event.  And, yes, the media will cover it.  But not like they should.  Each time it happens, the coverage gets less intense.  Each time it happens, people get more used to it.  Each time it happens, we get more accustomed to things we shouldn’t.  They media is helping to make it routine, caring less each time, covering less each time.  There should be massive headlines every single time it happens.  Reporters should be dispatched to investigate every little detail.  Features should be done explaining the where, what, how, and why and it’s historical significance and abnormality.

It’s not just the media, though.  We’re all guilty of it.  We see a headline and shrug.  We shake our heads.  Maybe we even chuckle.  Maybe we don’t even read the article, or breeze over it so quickly that we don’t fully comprehend it–seeing the words, but not really reading them.  We tell our friends or significant others, “Guess what just happened and go into it,” but they’re nonplussed.

We need to remain diligent and vigilant.  When extraordinary things happen we need to make sure people know.  We need to ensure, while still remaining calm and reasonable, that everyone understands how important each occurrence is.  We can’t let any single incident get lost in the shuffle of a 24-hour news cycle and social media’s nanosecond attention span.

We can’t normalize the abnormal and expect to be in a good place, a decent place.

Although it’s obvious, I’m referring to Russell Westbrook.

He tallied another triple double tonight.  It’s his sixth in a row and eleventh of the young NBA season.  The only people who have recorded more triple doubles in a row are Michael Jordan, Wilt Chamberlain, and Oscar Robertson, which is exalted company, to say the least.  To help put six straight triple doubles in perspective, Anfernee “Penny” Hardaway, 4-time NBA all-star and phenom known for being a triple threat, only had six career triple doubles.   Steph Curry, reigning 2-time NBA MVP and the only unanimous MVP, only has seven career triple doubles, one more than Westbrook’s streak, but four fewer than his season total.  Russ now has more triple doubles than LeBron James, the closest thing to the T-1000 basketball has seen, despite having played in 396 fewer games in his career.

It’s important that we don’t normalize this craziness.  We need to ensure that vital information is disseminated in a reasonable, rational way and that citizens are well informed of incredible, historical events.  If we don’t, can you imagine what could happen?

The Travesty That Is The Pac-12 Conference’s Football Championship Game

As I begin writing this post, on a Friday night, the University of Colorado is facing off against the University of Washington in the Pac-12 Conference’s Football Championship Game.  That’s odd, you may be thinking, why is the conference championship game on a Friday when college football games are traditionally played on Saturdays?  Purely and simply, it’s a made-for-TV money grab.  And it’s disgusting.  The TV deal that the Pac-12 struck in 2011, which is worth $3 billion (with a “B”) over 12 years, dictates that many football games per season will be played on Thursday and Friday nights, including the conference championship game being played on Friday nights every year.  Despite the billions of dollars in revenue, the hundreds of millions of donated money spent of football-specific facilities, the tens of millions for salaries on coaches (and buyouts of fired one) at public institutions, there somehow isn’t enough money to pay the players (or let them receive payment from other sources, such as through endorsement deals).  The Friday-night championship games don’t benefit the players, which should be the most important consideration, and they don’t benefit the fans, which could be a reasonable secondary consideration.

The NCAA argues that it shouldn’t compensate players above tuition and certain expenses because college athletes are “amateurs” (although I still haven’t heard a convincing argument why amateurism is a good thing).  According to the NCAA’s propaganda, “The association’s belief in student-athletes as students first is a foundational principle.”  But if the student aspect of “student-athletes” is more important than the “athlete” aspect, why is there a championship game being played on Friday, December 2?  In order to fly to the site of the game and conduct walk-throughs, the teams had to miss at least a day and half of classes during a very important time for students: the 10 days before final.  Colorado’s finals start on Sunday, December 11.  UW’s finals start on Saturday, December 10.

It’s a joke for the NCAA assert that the academics are important (or foundational) when they schedule games based on money rather than things like the academic calendar.

It’s also horrible that the game is on a Friday night because it means the teams last played six short days ago, when both teams happened to have season-deciding games against ranked opponents.  Football is a brutal, arguably immoral and unethical game.  The season is long and wears down players’ bodies and minds.  In the NFL (where players are paid millions for their service), the best teams earn byes and often rest their top players before the playoffs.  The winners of the Pac-12 South and North divisions earn the right to play a game in an unfamiliar stadium (Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, where no other Pac-12 games are played) in an area that typically gets a fair amount of winter rain.

It’s impossible to know if the shorter rest period will cause injuries.  But in the first half, Colorado’s starting quarterback, Sefo Liufau, was injured and knocked out of the game.  That doesn’t prove anything, but it’s hard not to think that more rest after a long season rather than less would benefit the players.

The Friday game is also bad for the fans.  Just look at the stands.  Student sections and crowd involvement differentiate college athletics from professional athletics. But it’s difficult for even rabid fan bases to get to the Pac-12 Championship Game.  For ten of the twelve fan bases it’s either a long (to very long) drive or at least one flight.  Attending fans also have to brave the Bay Area’s notoriously horrible traffic during rush hour on a Friday to get to the game.  For students, it’s both expensive and means traveling right before finals when students should be, you know, studying.  Also, the winning team will play in a top bowl, which rabid fans would probably also want to attend, adding even more expenses.

It is now Saturday morning.  UW dominated Colorado, earning head coach Chris Petersen a $150,000 bonus for appearing in and winning the game in addition to his $3.6 million salary for this year.  If UW is picked to play in the college football playoff, which is likely, Petersen will receive an additional $300,o00 and even more if the Huskies continue to win.  What can Petersen do with that money?  Almost anything he chooses: redecorate his house, travel around the world, share it with his coaching staff, burn it, donate to the University of Washington.  One of the few things he can’t do: share any of it with the players who played in the games that led to that bonus.

The Little Things

Z’s life, which, I suspect, is similar in this regard to almost all American babies, is very well documented.  We have thousands of pictures and videos from his first year.  Any time anyone wants to see what he looked like at 1 month, 2 month, 3 months, there will be plenty of options to look at.  When his eyes turned from blue to gray to brown.  When he lost his initial hair.  When he grew a baby mullet.  When his first tooth started to come in.  There are plenty of videos of big milestones as well.  His ability to roll over.  His skill in sitting up on his own.  His fast crawl.  His perilous early steps.

What won’t be documented and what I hope to never forget are the little things he’s done as a baby, the everyday moments that makes him and being his father so special.

The way he’ll raise his head and lift his eyebrows to look at something interesting over my shoulder when I’m holding him.

The way he’ll arch his back and smile up at me as we lie on the floor.

The way he’ll take a few steps and then dive into a hug with his large stuffed monkey.

The way he’ll make a fake laugh sound when something is funny but not hilarious.

The way he’ll really laugh, deep and hearty, at the correct moment when someone tells a joke and before others start laughing.

The way he’ll lean forward in the bath and pretend to drink the bath water.  And sometimes really drink it.

The way he’ll get so excited to see a dog that he’ll pant and cry if he’s brought too close to the dog but cry and whine if he’s moved farther away from it.

The way he’ll lie on my stomach as I read a book to him, as content as can be, only to pop up and crawl away three seconds later.

The way he opens his mouth as wide as possible to make sure it gets around his straw when he drinks water.

As difficult as it can be to be a parent of an infant, these are memories I hope never fade away, the little things that don’t get captured by the many photos and videos we take.

The NY Times Interview With Donald Trump: Why America Distrusts The Media

According to a poll done in September, media distrust in the United States is at an all-time high.  (Of course, polls also indicated that Hillary Clinton would be the president-elect)  Yesterday, the New York Times, after some drama about a cancellation, interviewed Trump.  They released the transcript today.

After an off-the-record portion, the Times went on the record.  During the interview, laughter enveloped the room fifteen times.  FIFTEEN.

The purportedly super liberal NY Times editors and reporters who are supposed to be investigating and evaluating policies and politicians, especially the one who is on his way to becoming the most powerful person in the world, managed to laugh with Trump fifteen times during a short interview with a man famous for his lack of a sense of humor.  That means that the most important NY Times editors and reporters found Donald Trump funnier and more charming than Dumb and Dumber To, Zoolander 2, and all of the Hangover Sequels combined.

What was so funny?  The first “[laughter]” notation came early, when NY Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. said, “I thought maybe I’d start this off by asking if you have anything you would like to start this off with before we move to the easiest questions you’re going to get this administration.”  It’s unclear if the joke was about the media’s lack of access to Trump to the media or the NY Times’ perceived bias and tough questions.  Given that Trump skirted many of the questions and wasn’t asked about Russia influencing the election, why his “disavowal” of Neo-Nazis is so much less emphatic and detailed than his attacks on the gold star Khan family, or many other important things, it seems the joke is more on the American public than anyone else and explains the mistrust of the media.

Other things that cause a roomful of politicians and journalists to laugh?  Trump disliking the electoral college until it propelled him to victory despite losing the popular vote by more than 2 million votes (and counting!).  Trump helping the NY Times sell lots of newspapers. (Again, the joke is on us)  Thomas Friedman being on Squawk Box.  A reporter asking for an exclusive when Trump decides if he’ll formally separate himself from his businesses while running the most important country in the world.  (Again, the joke is on us).

There was apparently a lot of laughter when Friedman asked a climate change question that included “You own some of the most beautiful links golf courses in the world…”  Sigh.  *It’s hard to imagine why Americans don’t trust the media*  Ass kissing isn’t a surprise in a puff piece on a celebrity.  But it’s pretty damn gross in political media coverage, especially after such a divisive, hate-filled campaign.  And it’s apparently so common that the NY Times is fine with publishing this embarrassing transcript (perhaps the most embarrassing part occurred later when Friedman told Trump, “I came here thinking you’d be awed and overwhelmed by this job, but I feel like you are getting very comfortable with it” (notwithstanding the fact that Trump isn’t even in office yet, but, sure, he’s very comfortable with the job).  If this is the on-the-record discussion, it’s nauseating to imagine what happened during the off-the-record discussion.  Friedman also said, “I’d hate to see Royal Aberdeen underwater.”  The only person at the NY Times who brought up climate change to the president-elect said he’d hate to see a golf course be ruined.  Who cares about the people of the Maldives or Miami or other low-lying areas?  What would be really tragic is if we lost a golf course.

Spoiler alert if you haven’t already read the transcript: there are almost zero relevant follow-up questions.  Towards the end, for example, Trump replies to a question about a role for Jared Kusher, his son-in-law, with: “Oh. Maybe nothing. Because I don’t want to have people saying ‘conflict.’ Even though the president of the United States — I hope whoever is writing this story, it’s written fairly — the president of the United States is allowed to have whatever conflicts he wants — he or she wants. But I don’t want to go by that. Jared’s a very smart guy. He’s a very good guy. The people that know him, he’s a quality person and I think he can be very helpful. I would love to be able to be the one that made peace with Israel and the Palestinians. I would love that, that would be such a great achievement. Because nobody’s been able to do it.” (emphasis added).  Rather than ask a follow up on the incredible claim that presidents can have whatever conflicts they want, the follow up question is: “Do you think he can be part of that?”  I feel like I’m taking crazy pills.  The president-elect says that he can do whatever he wants with his large, opaque business and large, opaque family and that he’d like to make peace with Israel and the Palestinians (good goal tbh) and the follow up is whether Trump thinks Kushner could be a part of “that”?  (It’s unclear if the questioner, Maggie Habberman, was referring to the conflicts or the peace process, but who the fuck cares?)  Ask about the conflicts!  Ask about how he’d try to achieve peace between Israelis and Palestinians!  Don’t do a followup on Kushner when Trump has already declined to say if he’ll have a formal role in the administration.

Anyway, 2016 has been a horrible year for celebrities (RIP Prince, David Bowie, the Saint Pablo Tour), goat curses (Go Cubs Go!), and journalism.  But don’t worry, First Amendment, Trump says you’ll be okay BECAUSE SOMEONE TOLD HIM HE’D LIKELY BE SUED IF LIBEL LAWS WERE CHANGED (which he would have no authority to do as president despite his campaign promises): “Oh, I was hoping he wasn’t going to say that. I think you’ll be happy. I think you’ll be happy. Actually, somebody said to me on that, they said, ‘You know, it’s a great idea, softening up those laws, but you may get sued a lot more.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right, I never thought about that.’ I said, ‘You know, I have to start thinking about that.’ So, I, I think you’ll be O.K. I think you’re going to be fine.”

Now, if we can only get someone to whisper in his ear that Baron and Tiffany might need Planned Parenthood so he shouldn’t defund it.

Why I’m Liberal

Recently, I read a political “discussion” on Facebook that included something to the effect of, what have liberals ever done for you?  It made me think.  Why am I liberal?  What have liberals ever done for me?  A lot actually.  Here are some, but not all, of the reasons I’m liberal.

My father is Chinese American.  When he was born, the Chinese Exclusion Act was still in effect, meaning Chinese immigrants were barred from entering the country and people of Chinese descent (even those born in the United States) were not able to become American citizens.  Noted liberal FDR signed the act repealing the Chinese exclusion laws.  What have liberals ever done for me?  They allowed my grandparents, father, and aunts and uncles (and later me) to become American citizens.

My mother is white.  When my father was born, it would not have been legal for him to marry my mom.  California, like many other states and where my parents and I were born and raised, had an anti-miscegenation law.  It wasn’t declared invalid until 1948 in the California Supreme Court case Perez v. Sharp.  Noted liberal justice Roger Traynor wrote the majority opinion, over a vigorous dissent, which holds that California’s anti-miscegenation statute, which prohibited a white person from marrying “a Negro, mulatto, Mongolian or member of the Malay race[,]” violates the United States Constitution and was too vague to be enforced.  What have liberals ever done for me?  They allowed my parents to marry and for me to marry my wife.  [historical note: it took another 19 years for the United States Supreme Court, in Loving v. Virginia, in a unanimous opinion by the liberal Warren Court, to extend the same protections for interracial couples to every state in the United States].

School segregation has a long and sordid history in the United States.  People have gone to extreme lengths to exclude minorities from white schools.  Although much of the historical focus on school in segregation in the United States has been on segregation of African Americans (and rightly so), Chinese Americans in California faced a complete expulsion from public schools in certain areas and later were forced into segregated schools as part of the infamous “separate but equal” doctrine.  Thus, until Brown v. Board of Education from the liberal Warren Court, the United States Supreme Court would have permitted the exclusion of me from the public schools I attended from kindergarten through law school.  This was recognized later by the Supreme Court in Guey Heung Lee v. Johnson: “Brown v. Board of Education was not written for blacks alone. It rests on the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment, one of the first beneficiaries of which were the Chinese people of San Francisco. See Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U. S. 356. The theme of our school desegregation cases extends to all.”  What have liberals done for me?  Allowed my father, uncles, aunts, cousins, brothers, and me to attend the public schools we attended, which helped propel many of us to successful careers.

Conservatives have long sought to control reproductive choice. Many states restricted contraception.  That is, until the “activist” Supreme Court held in Griswold v. Connecticut that state statutes forbidding the use of contraceptives violates the Constitution.  Many states also made abortions illegal.  The liberals on the Supreme Court changed that in Roe v. Wade, which has barely survived a conservative onslaught since it was handed down in 1973.  To see the liberal versus conservative divide on these cases, look no further than Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt, the recent abortion case involving Texas.  The majority opinion, which upholds a woman’s right to choose, was written by Justice Breyer (appointed by President Clinton) and joined by Justices Ginsburg (also appointed by President Clinton), Kagan (appointed by President Obama) Sotomayor (also appointed by Obama), and “swing” Justice Kennedy.  Republican presidents appointed all of the dissenting justices.  What have liberals done for me?  Permitted me to have access to healthcare that allows my wife and me to make our own family planning decisions, something for which I’m even more grateful after becoming a father and realizing the time and energy it takes to raise a child.

In addition to the many important legal precedents that affect me directly, one of the main reasons I’m liberal is because I stand against hate and bigotry.  Not all conservatives are bigots or hateful, but it’s very hard to untangle the conservative movement in the United States from hatred based on race, gender, religion, and sexual orientation. Conservatives fought the civil rights movement.  Conservatives murdered civil rights leaders.  Conservatives lynched minorities for such misdeeds as allegedly whistling at a white woman or competing for jobs with whites (the all-too-familiar “economic anxiety”).  Conservatives criminalized gay sex and fought efforts to legalize them.  Conservatives fought against feminism.

While George W. Bush’s rhetoric spoke of a more “compassionate conservatism,” the current incarnation of the Republican party and the conservative movement is filled with outright bigotry.  The presidential campaign of Donald Trump, the GOP’s standard bearer, was filled with bigotry and hate.  For example, Trump said this about Mexican immigrants: “They’re bringing drugs.  They’re bringing crime.  They’re rapists.  And some, I assume, are good people.”  He proposed a ban on all Muslims traveling to the United States.  His final campaign ad was anti-Semitic, playing on long-held notions of a cabal of evil Jews running the world.  His comments about a judge in one of his many civil lawsuits were so bad that GOP Speaker of the House Paul Ryan disavowed the comments and said that they were “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”  Sadly, many of Trump’s supporters are even worse.  He was endorsed by the KKK and white supremacist David Duke.  Anecdotal reports indicate an increase in hate crimes since the election, many with a connection to Trump’s campaign.  Even if I were fiscally conservative, which I’m not, the connection between the American right and bigotry would not allow me to support the GOP, which is the machine of conservatism in America.

The bigotry within the conservative movement has long sought to discriminate against and marginalize LGBTQ people.  It was not until 2003 that the United States Supreme Court held in Lawrence v. Texas that criminalizing gay sex was unconstitutional.  Conservative hero Justice Scalia wrote a long dissent in which he, as he was wont to do, whined and demonstrated his hypocritical nature while also bemoaning the right of gay people to live their lives free from fear of criminal prosecution because of his belief that society should be free to “enforce[] traditional notions of sexual morality.”  Scalia also casually mentioned in his dissent that his research indicated that there were four executions for sodomy during the colonial period.  Plenty of people in the United States find homosexuality and bisexuality immoral.  I’m not one of them.  In fact, I think judging others based on consensual sexual activity is immoral and I find it especially abhorrent given how many conservative politicians and religious leaders have found themselves in sex scandals.

Now, even if you agree with me on the above, you might wonder why I’m not a libertarian.  Libertarians espouse an aversion to government intrusion in civil life and claim, at least currently in the United States, to be socially liberal but financially conservative.   I’m not a libertarian mainly because I believe that governments should aim to help their citizens, especially the most vulnerable ones, and I think that a libertarian government would fail its most needy.  I think that governments should provide a range of services, including public schooling and assistance with food, health, and shelter costs.  This is especially true in countries like the United States that have lots of wealth.  I recently read the Forbes issue on the 400 richest Americans.  It’s fascinating how many people created their own fortunes in short amounts of time.  It’s also fascinating how many people are among the richest in the world merely by inheriting wealth.  It saddens me that there are families of billionaires who do not have to do anything to contribute to society when there are so many people in dire need; people who are starving or don’t have access to clean water or a roof over their heads.  This is also why the conservative movement’s fetish with repealing the estate tax is so disgusting to me.

I also couldn’t in good conscience be a libertarian and ask for the government to step aside, thinking that citizens should compete and make their own way because for so long the government actively harmed certain segments of the population.  Slavery.  Jim Crow.  The Chinese Exclusion Act.  The Japanese Internment.  Redlined neighborhoods.  Bulldozing of minority enclaves.  Segregated schools.  The more one reads about the history of minorities in the United States, the more one wonders how there are any successful minorities at all (it truly is a testament to work ethic and willpower).  The history of the United States isn’t just filled with private bigotry.  In many instances, hatred was legitimized and/or perpetrated by the government at all levels.  And there certainly has been progress made, but it would be folly to think that discrimination has vanished or that every child has close to an equal opportunity to succeed.  Accordingly, I think it is important that the government have a role in caring for its citizens and leveling the playing field.

I also think that the environment is in dire need of protection and a libertarian regime would be disastrous for the environment.  The tragedy of the commons is an old economic theory about how individuals acting in their own self interest can behave against the common good, using up resources in an inefficient manner.  Libertarian policies would allow these tragedies to thrive.  Moreover, there are many negative externalities to many different actions.  Without regulation, companies would be free to pollute the air and water supplies and emit pollutants without regard for others.  We’ve seen what this does and it’s why the WHO stated recently that 92% of the world’s population lives in places where air pollutants exceed WHO limits and estimated that 6.5 million deaths a year are linked to air pollution.  I strongly support smart environmental regulation and could not in good conscience by a libertarian.

This isn’t all of it, but it’s a lot of it.  I’m liberal.  And proud.