Why I Support Bernie Sanders Part II: Equal Rights and Ending Discrimination

I feel very strongly that the United States of America is, and should always be, a place for people of all colors and creeds, and that all people deserve to have the same rights. Our diversity is a major part of what makes this country great. The government should be ensuring that all people have equal opportunity and that no one person or group of people are denied any of their rights.

The reason for making sure everyone truly has equal rights is simple — and somewhat selfish. If being denied rights can happen to one group of people, it can happen to you.

The truth is that right now (and in the past) in our country you cannot be more privileged than to be born white, male, and Christian. You will not be pulled over for “driving while white.” You will not be paid less for your work than equally qualified peers because you are a woman. And you will certainly not fear for the safety of your family because of your religious beliefs due to the fearful, hateful, and divisional rhetoric from many of our nation’s leaders.

Unfortunately, still today we have many people and politicians who try to make and keep discriminatory laws. There are leading presidential candidates that have called for banning all Muslims from entering the U.S., even those who are already citizens but are temporarily out of the country. There has even been a suggestion that a national registry be created of all Muslims in America, which sounds eerily close to Nazi Germany.

There are many people who have tried to force their religious definition of marriage on everyone else in the country. Either denying the fact that homosexuality exists naturally in this world or not caring that a loving, devoted gay couple might be denied being together in a hospital room to make end of life decisions if one partner is ill.

And despite the civil rights movement, the black community in America is still feeling the legacy of slavery in our country. While outright racism and jim crow laws may no longer be the norm, the black community have had to start from behind on a social, economic and educational level.

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The reasons I feel that Bernie Sanders is the best candidate to fight for equal rights among all citizens is because his entire life he has consistently fought for the rights of those who are discriminated against, even when it wasn’t politically correct to do so.

  • Bernie was there during the civil rights movement and marched alongside Dr. King.
  • Bernie was for gay rights, decades before marriage for same-sex couples was allowed. As mayor of Burlington, VT he signed a city ordinance banning housing discrimination and in 1983 supported the city’s first Pride Parade.
  • He advocates for election day to be a national holiday to make voting easier for poor and working Americans who would otherwise have a difficult time making it to the polls while working.
  • He supports measures to end the gender pay gap and has stood up for women’s rights.
  • He has a lifetime perfect score from the Human Rights Campaign.
  • His supporters are a diverse group of people, of all ages, races and religions.

As president, I believe he will work harder than any other candidate to guarantee every single American is granted equal rights, and that is a major reason why I support Bernie Sanders for president.

Why I Support Bernie Sanders: Part 1 – Health Care

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Bernie Sanders speaking in Cedar Rapids, IA on 01/08/16 (Photo by Daniel Dorman)

I have always found it strange that health insurance was tied to a job. I understand how it came about back during WW2, but I’m not sure why it’s still that way today. Many Presidents, politicians, citizens, and unions have called for change to a more universal system. The ACA (Obamacare) might seem like something new, but in fact similar things had been proposed all the way back to Nixon, and then again with Clinton. Some may be happy with the provisions in Obamacare, I however feel the most important part was left out — the public option.

There could be many benefits from having health insurance separated from employment. In the time I’ve been married, just over five years, I’ve switched health insurance seven times. I would have much preferred not to, but unfortunately that wasn’t a choice.

I would like to walk you through these changes to help explain why I feel like universal health coverage from a public option is important.

  • Before I was married, I had insurance purchased privately (1). I was working multiple part-time jobs as well as freelancing while trying to start a business, so I had no full-time work benefits.
  • Soon after I was married, my wife got a full-time job teaching. We took the opportunity to have insurance through her work (2). The coverage was good, but also very expensive.
  • The next year, we switched to a HSA plan (3). It was more affordable, but I was expecting to get information about steps to set up a savings account, but never did. I have no idea where the money that was deducted from my wife’s checks actually went to.
  • I got a new full-time job with a company that paid for a significant portion of the health insurance costs, so we switched to that (4).
  • Six months later, my position was eliminated, so we were forced to switch back to insurance from my wife’s job (5).
  • Then we had a baby. Adding him to our policy would have made the premium significantly higher. We switched to a private insurer (6) and paid roughly the same for two adults and one child as we had been for just two adults with similar coverage.

This brings us to now, beginning of 2016 when — you guessed it — we had to switch plans. Our insurance company was no longer offering health insurance in 2016. We would have stayed on this plan, if it were still offered. Luckily, insurance plans at my current job were more reasonable due to the company starting to pay for a portion of it (7).

This is a mess! The world has changed a lot since the 1940’s. People can barely depend on a company for a job, much less a life long career. Many positions are kept as part-time and contracted out to avoid having to give workers the benefits that were once used to lure workers in! The reality is, people can’t just walk down the street from their high school graduation and into the front door of a factory and take an entry level job, work to move up to better paying positions, earn a pension and retire comfortably anymore. You can’t even walk out of a college graduation and do that. The system set in place no longer works for our current economy. I believe it’s marginally better with Obamacare — it’s more convenient for self-employed people to shop for and compare insurance plans, but costs are still too high and rising, and it still doesn’t solve the problem of health insurance being tied to jobs.

Another problem with health insurance coming and going with a job is that people aren’t always able to take the jobs they want to do or are good at, because the company they would work for doesn’t offer affordable insurance. I’m sure we’ve all heard people who have stayed in jobs they didn’t like because they needed to keep their health insurance for their families.

Just imagine, if health care was an American citizen’s right, we would no longer have to worry about leaving our jobs to start our own businesses or join a start up because we would loose our health insurance.

Imagine being able to freelance and work from home without being stuck finding your own health insurance and paying higher rates because you’re not part of a larger pool.

Imagine not having to worry each year about plan changes and figuring out which plan is going to best suit your unknown future needs.

That seems incredibly liberating and freeing to me. It removes a major barrier to entrepreneurship. It takes a burden off of businesses and allows them to compete for employees by offering good paying jobs, offering exciting environments, or fulfilling work.

Bernie Sanders speaking in Cedar Rapids, IA on 01/08/16 (Photo by Daniel Dorman)

Bernie Sanders is the candidate who I believe has the best chance of helping usher in a new, better system for American health care. He has long advocated for such a system and has plans for how to implement and pay for it. He has been consistent on this subject since before he started his presidential campaign, not just after polls came back suggesting people support it. I believe he will fight harder for this than anyone else.

This is just one reason why I support Bernie Sanders for president.

For more information on Bernie’s health care plans, visit www.feelthebern.org.

My 2015 Resolutions

About a year ago, I challenged myself to learn more about photography and how to use my camera (Resolution 01). I have learned quite a bit and am much more comfortable with my camera, but I’ve also discovered there is a lot more to understand.

My initial goals were to:

  • learn all of the features of my camera.
  • get comfortable with the controls and settings.
  • understand better how to control depth of field.
  • work on composition.find interesting points of view.

While the are still many features of my camera that I haven’t even touched upon yet, I have gotten to know the camera pretty well. I still end up setting it to full auto quite often when just trying to get snapshots of moments or when I need to get a photo quick and don’t have time to fuss with settings. I’d like to get quicker with finding the right settings so in the future I can have more control over how images turn out in the “get it before the moment is gone” situations.

I feel like I understand well enough how to get the desired depth of field that I want. My composition has improved, as well. The first few “resolutions” I did a lot of cropping during editing. I’ve gotten a lot better at “cropping in the lens” and getting a better composition from the get go.

Looking back, I’ve noticed that I don’t always have much of a subject in many of my photos. Going forward, I want to focus more on really bringing out a clear defined subject to focus on. I’ve also noticed that inevitably I end up taking pictures of my Saab.

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My favorite photos from the last year tend to be ones that have bright, bold colors. Vintage, faded, washed out, looking images are really cool, but whenever I was editing mine I was always drawn more towards heavier color saturation.

All of the photos are on Flickr, but here are some of my favorites from 2015:

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Resolution 08

It had been some time since I had been out shooting. On one of the final days of summer, just as Autumn was starting to roll out across the landscape, I found a ditch along the side of a road covered in yellow flowers.

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It was really windy that afternoon so I had to keep a fast shutter speed, which worked out okay because there was plenty of light to make up for it. At first I struggled to come up with an interesting composition, but I eventually found a few points of view that felt interesting.

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One thing that I got out of this session was using the zoom (crop factor) to get a narrower depth of field. Previously, I’d always just tried to have a wide open aperture for that effect. However, I discovered I’ve really been missing out by not using the lens to achieve blurred background/foregrounds. I’ll have to admit, I don’t entirely understand why it works that way, but it’s something new for me to use and do some reading on to better understand.

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I really like the bright, bold, yellow flowers on a fairly solid blue sky background. I wish I had gotten some more shots of the flowers with a mostly sky backdrop. They’re long gone now, but I’m hoping to get some autumn colors before the season changes yet again.P1060050a

A few more along with these are posted on flickr.

The Man in the Mirror

A little over a month ago, I saw a sideview of myself in a mirror and was shocked to see how far my belly stuck out. I knew I had put on some weight – my clothes fit a bit tighter, it was hard to breathe when I would bend down to tie my shoes – but I somehow hadn’t really noticed how fat I had gotten. But I do know how it happened.

IMG_0650During the week-long hospital stay for my son’s birth, I got hooked on soda. There was a soda fountain just down the hall from our room. The general chaos of that whole week, being overly tired and not knowing what day it was, much less what time, I’m sure I drank way more Pepsi and Mt. Dew than I care to know. It is really easy to start drinking pop, but it was really hard to stop.

To make things worse, I have a hard time getting myself to drink water, especially from places other than home. It sometimes tastes weird, or if you have a plastic or styrofoam cup, it tastes like… well, styrofoam or plastic. I’ve gotten water bottles in the past, and after a few times through the dishwasher, the plastic takes on a dishwasher smell and the water tastes like soap. I had a metal water bottle that I liked, but it wasn’t dishwasher safe. That means it ended up sitting on the counter waiting to be hand washed for about a month. Pepsi, however, always tastes like Pepsi.

The cards were stacked against me. Everywhere you go, these’s soda. If I go to Taco John’s for lunch, the meals come with a drink. I don’t want to order the food separately, because it’s only handful of cents more to get it with a drink. I also don’t want to get the drink and then just use the cup for water. If I’m at work and I get thirsty, there’s always soda in the vending machine, along with some weird diet iced tea. If I stop at a convenience store, a bottled water is as much as, if not more than, a bottle of pop. It just doesn’t feel right to pay that much for a bottle of water. So what could I do?

I just quit.

I IMG_0651decided that the next Monday was going to be the day I quit drinking pop. I finally ponied up and bought a nice glass water bottle – making sure it was dishwasher safe. I pushed through a couple days of moderate headaches. When I had a strong craving for something flavorful and bubbly I would drink an Izzy instead of getting soda. I avoided getting fast food for lunch because I knew I’d get it with a soda.

Then something amazing happened. Not even a week in, I could tell my body was working better. I didn’t feel slow or sluggish. It felt like my internal systems had less friction moving nutrients around my body. I felt good and was proud of myself for overcoming the hold that soda had over me, and proving I have more power than a can of sugar water. I still had cravings for pop, but it was much easier to ignore them. It became somewhat of a game, to see how long I could go without having one.

It has now been well over a month since I last had a drink (of soda…). It feels good both mentally and physically to have gained control over such a simple part of my life. A part that is surprisingly easy to loose control of. For me, this is about that control as much as it is about health. I know I have lost some weight since I quit, although I didn’t weigh myself before and I haven’t been since. I’ve decided I’m not going to regularly weigh in, either. If this becomes about numbers, I’m probably not going to win. If I don’t get much change from one day or week to the next, that’s only going to be discouraging. But wether I loose weight or not, it’s still better for me to be drinking water instead of soda.

Did you know that Coke can be used to clean off corrosion around a car battery’s terminals? Or better yet, get blood stains off of a road. I’m sure many other sodas do this, too. We would never allow ourselves to drink other liquids with these properties, so why do we not worry about drinking soda? Plus, besides be pumped full of who knows what kind of chemicals, dyes, and preservatives, it also contains large portions of two highly addictive drugs – caffeine and sugar.

So there’s all kinds of good reasons to quit drinking soda, and I’m sure someday I will have a can of soda again, but being successful at cutting it out of my life has been a huge reward that has lead to other good things (more on this next time).

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I have found that my success came from removing barriers and committing not to the goal, but to the actions needed to accomplish the goal. It’s so easy to just grab a soda, and it felt so hard to just drink water. I tried to take myself out of situations where I would easily get a soda, and prepare ahead to give myself easier alternatives like having an Izzie or a nice glass water bottle. I’m not worrying about loosing weight, but focusing on finding ways to make being healthier easier. I don’t want to end up trapped in an overweight, lazy, and addicted American lifestyle.