Anesa Kajtazovic: Brave. Courageous. Progressive.

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Anesa Kajtazovic, one of several Democrats running in a competitive U.S. House primary in the 1st Congressional District of Iowa, refused to answer a questionnaire from Iowa Gun Owners, a state-level far-right organization in Iowa that is part of a nationwide gun lobby that wants to proliferate guns in every part of society.

Iowa Gun Owners responded with intimidation tactics. Specifically, they posted Kajtazovic’s personal contact information online and encouraged their members to send her threatening phone calls and messages.

I admire Kajtazovic for being willing to refuse to fill out a questionnaire from an organization she isn’t even remotely interested in seeking an endorsement from. After all, Kajtazovic has opposed the gun lobby’s agenda in the Iowa House, and the gun lobby would never support her campaign for Congress, so there’s no incentive whatsoever for her to fill out their questionnaire.

Additionally, the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s 1st District, Pat Murphy, voted with the right-wing extremists in Iowa’s state legislature to legalize silencers on guns. Allowing people to shoot a firearm without anyone hearing the shot being fired is dangerous and absurd, yet Murphy voted for it. Kajtazovic, on the other hand, voted against the legislation.

Gun control isn’t the only issue that Kajtazovic cares about. Kajtazovic, who fled a war-torn Bosnia when she was a child to make a living in the United States, is running on a progressive platform supporting raising the minimum wage, expanding Social Security benefits, protecting Medicare, supporting equal pay for equal work, supporting women’s reproductive rights, making college more affordable, making sure that millions of Americans can access affordable health care, helping veterans transition back to civilian life easier, supporting renewable energy, opposing the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, eliminating the undue influence of money in politics, and connecting rural America to broadband internet.

Anesa Kajtazovic would make a great congresswoman for Northeastern Iowa.

Once again, five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court are destroying democracy in this country

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Once again, the five conservative justices on the U.S. Supreme Court have issued a ruling allowing for more money in politics.

In a 5-4 ruling, the conservative majority on the court ruled to declare aggregate limits on the total amount of money an individual can donate to official campaigns for public office, political party committees, and political action committees (PACs) unconstitutional. However, the ruling did not completely overturn the 1976 Buckley v. Valeo decision, thus, individual limits on how much money official campaigns for public office can receive from a single donor are still valid.

POLITICO summarized how the McCutcheon vs. FEC ruling will affect the campaign finance landscape in this country:

The sweeping ruling has the potential to once again reshape the campaign finance landscape — bringing more campaign money back under the control of political parties after four years of record spending by outside groups.

[...]

Because fundraising can be done jointly, the national party committees could — in theory — combine forces with other state parties to solicit checks of $1 million or more.

Such a fundraising plan would allow a presidential candidate, speaker of the House, Senate leader or other top official to attend a fundraiser legally soliciting a six or seven figure check.

In short, the McCutcheon ruling, issued a day after numerous municipalities in Wisconsin, including some of the most conservative communities in that state, voted to support non-binding referendums calling for a federal constitutional amendment to end big-money politics, will effectively allow national political party committees, such as the Democratic National Committee and the Republican National Committee, to receive huge sums of money from wealthy donors.

There are five justices on the U.S. Supreme Court (Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, Anthony Kennedy, and Samuel Alito) that are destroying democracy in this country by making it much easier for wealthy people to buy elections and influence over elected officials. It’s time to amend the U.S. Constitution to put a stop to all of this.

Democratic candidate for Governor of Maryland Heather Mizeur takes a principled stand on redistricting reform

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Heather Mizeur, the progressive champion who is running for the Democratic Party’s nomination for Governor of Maryland, came out in support of a proposal to reform Maryland’s corrupt redistricting process by taking the authority to redraw congressional and state legislative districts in Maryland out of the hands of state lawmakers and put it in the hands of an independent, non-partisan redistricting commission.

While Mizeur’s proposal will probably cause the old boys and girls network within the Maryland Democratic Party to criticize her (after all, Democrats controlled the post-2010 Census redistricting process in Maryland, and they wildly gerrymandered the state’s congressional districts), I strongly admire the fact that Mizeur is taking a principled stand on a very important issue facing our country. Like Mizeur, I firmly believe that it is a conflict of interest for state legislators to draw congressional and state legislative districts in states where state legislators currently have that power, and I firmly believe that the redistricting process should be done in a non-partisan manner independent of state legislatures.

If elected Governor of Maryland, Heather Mizeur will govern as a principled progressive who will fight to end politics as usual and make Maryland a better place to live.

Republicans want courts to dictate your love life

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This is, to put it mildly, one of the worst pieces of legislation I’ve ever seen proposed: Republican members of the Massachusetts General Assembly want to force consenting adults to get a court’s permission in order to date or have sex.

I find it downright disturbing that, in 2014, there are some politicians in this country who want to dictate the private lives of consenting adults by effectively requiring consenting adults to get a court’s approval to have a love life. This bill, if enacted, would constitute a massive invasion of personal privacy, and I strongly oppose it.

I firmly believe that the government has no business whatsoever invading the sex lives and relationships of consenting adults. This is 2014, not medieval times.

When Democrats run away from progressive ideas, they lose

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Last night, Republican candidate David Jolly defeated Democratic candidate Alex Sink in the 13th Congressional District of Florida special election despite the fact that both of the major-party candidates in the race were badly flawed (both were carpetbaggers, both were political insiders, Jolly was a lobbyist who donated to convicted crook Jesse Jackson Jr., Sink was a gaffe-prone politician, etc.). Simply put, Sink blew it worse than Jolly did.

However, if one thing could be made abundantly clear last night, it’s this: When Democrats run away from progressive ideas, they lose.

The Democratic candidate in the 13th District special election in Florida (from a partisan lean perspective, the 13th District is a microcosm of the State of Florida and one or two points more Republican-leaning than the national electorate is), Alex Sink, ran her campaign on a theme of “bipartisanship”, as most establishment Democrats do. While “bipartisanship” is a political buzzword that appeals to some mostly uninformed voters who don’t like politicians who come across as ultra-partisan and/or combative, it doesn’t appeal to the progressives who compromise the Democratic Party’s base, and there are far more progressives in most parts of the country than there are centrists. If a Democratic candidate runs on “bipartisanship” and other centrist memes and doesn’t strongly advocate for progressive ideals, that candidate comes across as being weak, and, especially in special elections like this one, that usually results in turnout by usual Democratic voters being low, which was exactly the case in the 13th District of Florida special election.

Also, many media outlets have viewed the 13th District special election in Florida as a referendum on the Affordable Care Act. When the Republican candidate runs on repealing the Affordable Care Act, which, if the ACA were to be repealed, would take health insurance away from me and millions of other Americans who have either just received or are about to receive health insurance and the Democratic candidate runs on “fixing” the Affordable Care Act but not talking about what reforms to the ACA she would support, the Democratic candidate is going to come across as much weaker than the Republican candidate, which results in depressed Democratic turnout, which results in the Democratic candidate losing. Had the Democratic candidate been someone who was either an unapologetic supporter of the ACA, a strong advocate for health care reform proposals that are to the left of the ACA (such as a public option health care system or a single-payer health care system), or a strong advocate for health care reform ideas that would make our country’s health care system much better (such as allowing Medicare Part D to negotiate prescription drug prices), that candidate would have likely had an easier time winning.

This is what happens when Democrats spend too much time focusing on fundraising and getting Democrats elected and not enough time focusing on advocating for progressive ideals that would make America a better place to live. It’s time that Democrats stop trying to out-Republican the Republicans and fight for progressive values.

Sadly, the criminal justice system isn’t colorblind in America

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Even in 2014, racism is, sadly, alive and well in America, and racism in this country is most evident in the criminal justice system, where black Americans are treated much worse than white Americans.

From my email inbox, here’s an infographic detailing how black Americans are treated much worse than white Americans in the criminal justice system:

Criminal Justice System Racial Disparities

Link to original source of infographic: http://blog.arrestrecords.com/infographic-racism-in-the-criminal-justice-system/

In short, blacks compromise a much higher percentage of prison inmates in this country than their percentage of the total U.S. population, are more likely to be incarcerated and be wrongfully arrested than whites, are, on average, given longer sentences than whites, are, on average, held on higher bail amounts than whites for the same crimes, are less likely to be granted a sentence diversion than whites, are more likely to be stopped and frisked than whites, are less likely to have charges dropped or reduced than whites, are more likely to be convicted by all-white juries, and represent 12% of drug users but represent 59% of those incarcerated in state prisons for drug offenses.

While the criminal justice system has become more color-blind in recent years (in fact, the disparity between black incarceration and white incarceration shrunk by 53% among women and by 16.9% among men from 2000 to 2009), there’s still a long way to go to make justice colorblind in this country. Ending the costly War on Drugs and legalizing, taxing, and regulating recreational marijuana should be part of a larger agenda to reduce racial disparities in the criminal justice system.

Possible Scotland independence could result in new UK national flag

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On September 18 of this year, the people of Scotland will vote on whether or not to become an independent country.

If Scotland were to vote for independence (the vast majority of pre-election opinion polls have shown that Scottish voters are leaning against independence), the Union Jack, which has been the national flag of the UK for over two centuries, may be changed in order to reflect the fact that Scotland would be no longer part of the UK if Scotland were to vote for independence.

Since many people here in the United States don’t have a basic knowledge of our country’s own history, much less that of the UK, I’ll briefly explain the history behind the UK’s national flag: in 1603, King James became the King of both Scotland and England, and, three years later, the Flag of Great Britain, which overlayed the red St. George’s Cross of England over the white St. Andrew’s Cross of Scotland over the blue background of the Scottish flag, became the King’s Flag. In 1801, Ireland was incorporated into the British flag by adding the red St. Patrick’s Cross of Ireland to the British flag by overlaying it within the white St. Andrew’s Cross of Scotland, and this British flag, which is the current national flag of the UK, became known as the Union Jack. When most of Ireland became an independent county in the early 20th Century, several Irish counties remained with the UK and became Northern Ireland. St. Patrick’s Cross remained part of the Union Jack, which came to represent Northern Ireland.

If Scotland were to vote for independence, the UK’s new national flag could simply consist of the English and Irish crosses on white background. However, Wales, the fourth constituent country of the UK, has never been represented on the UK’s national flag, and several post-Scottish independence UK flag designs have been proposed, all of which incorporate features of one of Wales’s two flags: the modern Welsh flag (a red dragon on a white and green striped background) and the historical Welsh flag (St. David’s Cross, a yellow cross on a black background). One proposal for a post-Scottish independence UK flag would be to replace the blue background of the Scottish flag with the black background of the historical Welsh flag. A variant of this proposal replaces the white border around the red crosses with a yellow border. Another proposal would be to overlay the English and Ireland crosses over the green and white striped background of the modern Welsh flag. Yet another proposal would be a quadrant flag consisting of the modern Welsh flag in the top right corner, the Irish cross in the bottom left corner, and the English cross in both the top left and bottom right corners.

Even if Scotland doesn’t vote for independence, Wales could easily be incorporated into the Union Jack by simply adding yellow borders (representing St. David’s Cross, the historical Welsh flag) around the English cross in the Union Jack.

The United Kingdom’s national flag is perhaps the second-most well-known national flag around the world (the only national flag that is more well known around the world being that of the United States). It would be interesting to see whether or not a new UK national flag would be as recognizable around the world as the current Union Jack.

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