23 October 2015

Hope on Guns: Is It Possible?

For the first time in a long, long time I'm feeling a stirring of hope that we can stem the plague of gun violence.

The idea, and I think it's brilliant: when the US Army and the NYPD and all the other government agencies buy guns, put language in the contracts with the manufacturers that holds them accountable for selling to the dealers that evade background checks, which they can do by selling at gun shows or on the internet or in states with lax laws and enforcement.

An interesting statistic: one percent of dealers are responsible for almost 60 percent of the guns used to commit crimes.

I just came from a press conference at Town and Village Synagogue, of which I'm proud to say I'm a member, launching Do Not Stand Idly By. As in, "Do not stand idly by while your neighbor's blood is shed" (Lev. 19:16).

Ten years ago, according to Rabbi Laurence Sebert, the major cause of death among children was car crashes; today, it's gun violence. And Sen. Chuck Schumer pointed out that we have limitations on the First Amendment, guaranteeing free speech; we need limitations on the Second Amendment, guaranteeing the right to bear arms.

This strategy to put direct pressure on gun manufacturers by way of public-sector contracts is the brainchild of Metro IAF, an interfaith coalition of religious leaders. Turns out that 40 percent of guns sold in the US go to the military and law enforcement agencies. That's a lot of buying power, and they want to use it by working with police chiefs and mayor's offices around the country to make manufacturers accountable.

You'd think the guns are all made in the US, right? Hmmm. Turns out that manufacturers from Germany, Austria, Italy and Brazil are making a lot of these guns. And they're giving NRA lobbyists a lot of money to push for unrestricted gun sales.

So what can YOU do? Go talk to your local police chief, your mayor, your council person. Get them to add their name to the Gun Buyers’ Research Group Commitment Form. Write to your representatives in Congress and tell them to get behind this initiative. Let me know what you think.

16 October 2015

Back on the Soap Box

I don't know when the world decided it needed liquid soap instead of soap in bars. I think it had something to do with the emergence of germ-o-phobia and the addition of anti-bacterial chemicals to everything a couple of decades ago. And I totally get that bars of soap in places like public bathrooms can totally be germ magnets.

But for home use? Most soap sold in bars is still packaged in paper.
Liquid soap, however, is packaged in plastic. And it's ... kind of the same thing as bar soap, except with a lot of water added. So you get a double-whammy of extra petroleum: the single-use plastic package that goes in the landfill when the soap is all gone*, and the extra water weight that makes up extra shipping volume and weight.

Bar soap works great for handwashing. It works great as a body wash in the shower. Certain bar soaps (I like Dr. Bronner's) work well on dishes. And you can even get bar shampoo from a couple of manufacturers.

Just like body wash, there are lots of varieties: glycerin soap that won't clog your pores, deodorant soap, soap with lots of moisturizer to keep your skin from drying out. Some of the bar shampoos work better with dry hair, some better with oily scalp.

So, do me a favor? Think about switching from the plastic bottle full of soap to a nice solid bar the next time you run out.
* IF the soap is all gone. The design of a lot of the packaging makes it very difficult to use up all of the contents, so if you don't think to cut apart the bottle,  you end up throwing a quarter of the contents away.

01 October 2015

Brooklyn Bike Lanes: Bust

Me: Good morning officer. I've just biked here from the Manhattan Bridge and there's been at least one vehicle parked in the bike lane in every block.
Officer: Welcome to New York, HA HA HA.
Me: Good morning officer, I see you're a traffic enforcement officer and there are a lot of vehicles parked in the bike lane in this block.
Officer #2: That's not my block, somebody else works there.
I think it was easier biking in downtown Brooklyn a decade ago, without bike lanes, taking your chances in the free-for-all.