Chicken little forecast

Still Chugging Along

Volcanoes are erupting in The Philippines, but on-fire Australia received some welcome rain. The Iran war cries have been called off and The Donald’s military powers are about to be hamstrung by the Senate. Meanwhile, his impeachment trial is starting, and we’re all on Twitter for a front-row seat.


What Could Go Right? Make pragmatism great again

When it comes to guns, we should cheer on cooperation that leads to progress, however incremental.

Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas

This is our weekly newsletter, What Could Go Right? Sign up here to receive it in your inbox every Thursday at 6am ET. You can read past issues here.

Make pragmatism great again

Ten Republicans and ten Democrats have struck a deal on a gun safety framework. The deal, which is a guide for legislation hopefully to be passed before July 4, includes the following, taken from The Trace’s explainer here:

  • Funding for mental health services as well as safety measures and violence prevention efforts in schools
  • Closing the “boyfriend loophole,” which means romantic partners convicted of misdemeanor domestic abuse or under restraining orders will not be able to pass background checks for guns
  • Expanding who is required to register as a firearms dealer, like sellers at gun shows
  • Enhanced background checks, including juvenile and mental health records, for gun purchasers under 21, as well as a waiting period
  • Model red-flag laws and incentives to pass them, “which allow for courts to temporarily take firearms from people who pose a threat to themselves or others”
  • Increased penalties for interstate gun trafficking and straw purchasing (when someone purchases a gun on behalf of another who cannot)

Click the second link above for more detail; it’s both clear and brief.

The legislation has to be written and passed, of course, so it’s not a sure thing, but as Isaac Saul, writer of the nonpartisan newsletter Tangle wrote in his coverage, “We don’t have the text, but we have a fairly good idea of how it will be written. . . . Most of the language that is going to be in this bill will be pulled from previous gun bills and mental health funding from the past. None of this is new material, and none of this is a new debate.” While some of our Democratic readers might see this as a negative—nothing new here!—we see it as a positive. Familiar language means a smaller chance that the passing of the legislation won’t get killed by details. Meanwhile, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell has expressed support, so that’s another good omen.

When we posted news of the agreement on social media, many of the comments expressed disappointment that the legislation would not include the kinds of reforms certain European countries passed in the wake of their own shootings, like an all-out ban on handguns or assault rifles. Many wrote that the deal was “not enough.”

We understand this point of view. But we’d also like to point out that despite all the comparisons, the United States is not Europe. The United States is unlike any other nation when it comes to guns, actually, because no other country protects the right to bear arms in its founding document. The dialogue gets paralyzed when it isn’t properly understood that banning guns, for many, many American constituents, is quite simply a no-go. So the deal may not be everything the Democrats wanted—and Republicans have their own concerns—but public support of many of the individual items included in it is high and cuts across political affiliation. Why would we not cheer that on? Many of us decry polarization and the fact that our politicians can’t get anything done but then refuse to see when we are contributing to the problem. If we want more cooperation among our elected representatives, we should support them when they actually do it.

The Progress Network (TPN) Member Matthew Yglesias encouraging a little more 👏 from gun control proponents.

In the spirit of dialogue, this podcast from Substacker Bari Weiss brought together conservative and gun owner David French with Barnard College professor Rajiv Sethi, who researches gun violence and has no particular love for the Second Amendment. (“I wouldn’t shed any tears if we got rid of [it],” he says.) The last third of the conversation presents solutions from a place of common ground. Many of them are ones that are actually in the Senate’s proposal, and they also discuss others like smart guns and civil penalties for not keeping a gun safely stored. The solutions are in the last 25 minutes, but the entire conversation is interesting, including their thoughts on an “honest” argument for repealing the Second Amendment. 

At the end, Weiss asks what each would say to Democrats and Republicans when it comes to the gun debate. “The enemy is maximalism,” French replies. The Democrats come to the table with “maximum demand.” The Republicans come with “maximum resistance.” Meanwhile, the American people “are anguished that we can’t pass anything.”

This is why supporting this Senate deal, from a perspective that counts less gun violence as the major indicator of progress, makes eminent sense to us. Folks, let’s get this deal signed, sealed, and delivered

Before we go

More young women are refusing genital cutting ceremonies in Sierra Leone, at great personal cost to themselves. While there is no ban there, it is “one of the few places where the practice seems to be showing a sustained decline.” Do read this one.

Timbuktu’s tourism industry was devastated when Islamist jihadis took over parts of the country in 2012, leading to years of instability and violence. There’s a really fun way to help former tourist guides, though, without leaving your house—send someone you love a postcard from Timbuktu. We can’t wait to try this! 

Want to live past 90? Keep reading this newsletter. Research shows that optimists live longer. Want to develop an optimistic mindset? It may go hand and hand with developing a patriotic one

Another win for Pride Month. “The Defense Department has officially ended a 1980s-era policy that restricted HIV-positive service members from deploying overseas and being promoted into leadership and management positions.”

Below in the links section, scientists are performing experiments remotely in robot-powered labs, Ukrainians are using 3D scanning tech to preserve their cultural heritage, and more.

The truth is out there. 👽

Facing America’s Biggest Challenges | S2 Ep. 12

After a string of heartbreaking news in the United States, are we doomed to fear, anger, and a descent into gridlocked politics? Today, Judge Victoria Pratt, an advocate for reforming the criminal justice system, and Lauren Leader, the cofounder and CEO of All In Together, discuss America’s biggest challenges and how each have enacted change in large, complex systems.

Lauren Leader: You go on your phone in the morning, and it’s the polar bears, and it’s the crime rate, and it’s Covid-19, and it’s the shootings. It’s all the stuff. It is very easy to get numb from that and to turn off. Part of what we try to encourage people to do in order to keep their energy and their enthusiasm for change-making is to focus on one issue that really matters to them—because it’s urgent, or it’s something they have personal experience with and can relate to in a deep way. Because it gets them out of bed and fires them up.
We ask people to pick one area where they want to make a difference. If it’s climate, if it’s abortion rights—pick one. And give yourself the grace, and give yourself a break, that you can’t solve all the problems of the world. There is a mental piece to this, which is this stuff is all very overwhelming. The fact is, you can chip away at problems, but not if you’re trying to chip away at all the problems. It’s not to tell people not to care. But if we actually want movement, if we want progress, if we want change, that requires sustained focus over the long term. And you can only do that if you make a real commitment to do that work over the long term.

Listen to the full episode here. Read the full transcript here.

Brewing Milk in Bioreactors

Cellular agriculture startups are culturing human and bovine cells in bioreactors to produce more sustainable milk without animals. | Read more

Progress, Please

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Emma Varvaloucas

Emma Varvaloucas is the Executive Director of The Progress Network. An editor and writer specializing in nonprofit media, she was formerly Executive Editor of Tricycle: The Buddhist Review and is the editor of two books from Wisdom Publications.