Wednesday, November 26, 2008

55 Days and Counting

Just in case you’re not counting, there are 55 days left to the Bush Presidency. While I’m not quite prepared to place the total blame for the ungodly mess the country is in at Bush’s feet, he certainly deserves a large portion of it.

We will recover from the current economic quagmire and we will restore the basic democratic principles so tarnished under the Bush administration. The Bush years will become another dark time in American history roughly equivalent to the McCarthy era and the internment of Japanese Americans during WW II.

Maybe, just maybe, Bush’s real legacy will be a swing to the left in this country. Perhaps we’ve learned that freedom for some doesn’t work; you need freedom for all. Perhaps we’ve learned that depending upon faith rather than facts is a piss poor way to run a country. Perhaps we’ve learned that the founding fathers really did know what they were doing when they established a secular government.

I wouldn’t take it for granted that we have though. The fight isn’t over, it’s just beginning. But at least more people seem to understand that there is a fight to be waged. There are those on the extreme right wing that are already plotting to undermine the success of the next administration and there is still a fair number of the electorate, beginning with the Evangelical Christian cadre, susceptible to the crap they will continue to spew.

Let’s not forget that people like Ann Coulter still have the audacity to claim that Bush was a great president that history will vindicate. Coulter also thinks that McCarthy was a great American somehow framed by a vast liberal conspiracy that included President Eisenhower, Congress, the news media and the U.S. Army. She has also concluded that Evolution is a discredited theory. What planet do you suppose she lives on anyway?

So, has anything really changed? I sincerely hope so. I hope that maybe, just maybe, more of us will be laughing at the lies now. I’ll take that as a start.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Republicans and Democrats

Believe it or not I was raised by my mommy to be a good Republican as well as a good Christian. Clearly, somewhere along the line that went all to hell didn’t it?

My earliest recollection of politics was in 1956 when Eisenhower was running for re-election against Adlai Stevenson. My grandfather was a member of the Republican club and in those days that meant access to lots of buttons, stickers, hats and all sorts of election paraphernalia. I don’t remember too much about the campaign, but I do remember the buttons. My favorite was about an inch and a half in diameter surrounded by a gold colored lattice showing President Eisenhower on an ivory background and displaying the motto “I like Ike.”

I also remember being surprised when my mother told me that my father wasn’t a Republican, “bah, what does he know” my mother would say, “He’s a Democrat.”

My mother would work on the election board and vote during the day. My dad would go vote at night after coming home from work and eating dinner. I put all the pieces together and concluded in my logical little mind that Republicans voted openly and proudly in the morning sun. Democrats on the other hand, had to sneak down to the polls at night so no one would see them. Clearly there was something unsavory and ungodly about voting Democrat.

My next recollection came in 1960. By then I was curious enough to check out the conventions on television and I remember watching the Democratic convention with all the delegates singing some song about going back to the White House that year. Needless to say, in my pre-adolescent wisdom, I thought they were completely out of their minds. There was no way the Republicans could lose. God would never let it happen.

Then I heard John Kennedy speak and the entire world turned upside down.

It’s been pretty much the left side of the aisle since despite considerable exasperation that some Democrats can’t seem to get it though their thick skulls that you cannot spend money that you don’t have. I believe that Barack Obama understands this point. I also believed that Robert Kennedy understood it.

To my mind one of the greatest tragedies of the 1960’s was the murder of Robert Kennedy. I was a big supporter of Bobby and I believe that he would have won the nomination and the Presidency in 1968. Eight years of Robert Kennedy as President of the United States would have changed the country and the world for the better.

After Kennedy’s death my support for Hubert Humphrey was subdued because of his pro-Vietnam War position. Still, he struck me as a better bet than Nixon. I remember sitting among a number of depressed college classmates in the cafeteria when word came that Nixon had won. The 1968 election marked the last Presidential campaign that I paid much attention to for a long time. Why? Because I graduated college in 1969 and entered the real world!

Through the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I was working my butt off and trying to raise a family. An exercise that I was only marginally successful at. Overall I found the candidates offered up by both parties less than overwhelming. Mondale and Dukakis in particular left me feeling the very definition of underwhelmed. Nor was I terribly impressed with slick Willy although he did manage to balance the budget.

I mean the whole Monica Lewinsky thing left me shaking my head. Sure, JFK cheated while in the White House, but he had the class to do it with Marilyn Monroe!

Anyway, after being partially asleep for 32 years we arrived at the year 2000. To be honest I had been raised in the tweedle-dum, tweedle-dee era where the differences between Republicans and Democrats were fairly marginal and mostly fiscal.

In those days Southern Democrats were to the right of Moderate Republicans. Men like Nelson Rockefeller, John Lindsay and even Dwight Eisenhower himself were Republicans with a conservative fiscal outlook but fairly liberal social views. To describe me as a Rockefeller Republican would not be too far from the mark. I probably would have voted for Richard Nixon in 1972 if the Watergate information hadn’t started to leak out.

There are very few, if any, of that breed left today. Consider the shock I felt when I realized that the Republican Party had become a far Right Wing enclave under the influence of people that not only have reactionary views but literally advocate the gutting of American principles like the Separation of Church and State and Equal Protection under the Law.

Yes I’m talking about the Religious Right.

Look, I don’t care what you believe. You’re entitled to your own beliefs and I’ll defend your right to hold them. However, you are not entitled to bring those beliefs out of the privacy of your church or home and attempt to codify them into laws which restrict the rights and actions of someone else, period, end of discussion.

You believe abortion is murder? Don’t have an abortion and feel free to do your best to convince others not to have one as well but don’t advocate legislation restricting abortion access or, even worse, a constitutional amendment restricting it. The decisions people make regarding their bodies and their health are none of your business.

You think the gay lifestyle is an abomination? Fine, don’t go to gay bars and don’t socialize with gay couples, but, considering that sexual orientation appears to not be a choice, what gives you the right to restrict the rights of gays? Why are gay couples not entitled to the same protections under the law as heterosexual couples?

You believe that evolution is ungodly and Genesis is the obvious truth? Be my guest to teach your children that in your home and church but don’t you dare try to get your religious myths into a science classroom and call it science.

You think the Ten Commandments are simply the most elegant set of moral directives ever devised? Then feel free to post them in every room of your house. Get them tattooed on your forehead if you want. Just don’t force them on those of us who aren’t terribly impressed with them by posting them in public buildings.

It’s real easy. You stay out of my yard and I’ll stay out of yours.

It’s safe to say that becoming familiar with the Religious Right has shifted me from a slightly left of center moderate into a left wing pinko card carrying member of the ACLU, the Freedom from Religion Foundation, the Center for Inquiry, the Brights (real stupid name that) and the Atheist Alliance.

At the risk of being accused of vilifying those who simply don’t agree with me, I’m going to articulate my impressions of the current Republican Party.

To my mind the current right wing base of the Republican Party is culturally and psychologically the descendents of those who have fought tooth and nail against every advance in civilization since man started to experiment with fire.

These are the same sort of folks that championed slavery, the same sort of folks that opposed women’s suffrage and the same sort of folks that defended segregation. They’ve just learned to avoid marching around in sheets. But a lot of the people and organizations that are the so called Republican base are making the ghosts of those who did parade around in sheets proud.

When Sarah Palin talks about states and people who are “pro-America” what do you think she means? You don’t suppose that’s code for white Christian America do you? Because if you’re not white or not Christian, and the right sort of Christian by the way, then you obviously can’t be a true American. Or at least that’s what Palin appears to be hinting with her fairly obvious euphemisms.

Hell, they might as well put on the sheets and pointy hats and burn crosses at the Republican rallies. At least then they would be honest about where they’re coming from.

Sinclair Lewis warned that when Fascism came to the United States it would be wrapped in a flag and carrying a cross. You will excuse me but that description sounds a lot like the so-called base of the current Republican Party.

Is this an extreme view that is unfair to many Republicans? Perhaps, but I think those that feel it’s unfair need to look around at who they’re crawling into bed with in order to win elections. If you’re willing to bed down with the devil in order to achieve some advantage, don’t be outraged when you get accused of being devilish yourself.

John McCain was all bent out of shape by John Lewis’ comments that he and Palin were “sowing the seeds of hatred and division.”

While I believe Lewis went too far when he brought up a comparison to George Wallace, basically he was right on. If you simply remove the middle paragraph from his statement, then I say he was 100% right on. McCain, and especially Palin, were appealing to the basest instincts of the Republican base.

But note this; those base instincts are there to appeal to aren’t they? Do we really want to elect people that not only accept such support but actually go out of their way to secure it?

Somewhere along the line I learned something very interesting. It seems that in fact my father rarely voted Democrat. He voted for the New York Liberal Party. Usually the Liberal Party endorsed the Democratic candidates so, at least in New York, it amounted to the same thing. But there were exceptions. Two major exceptions were the 1965 and 1969 mayoral contests. In 1965 John Lindsay was both the Republican and Liberal Party nominee while the Democrats nominated Abe Beame. In 1969 Lindsay won with only the Liberal Party nomination.

When I asked my dad why he bothered to vote Liberal rather than Democrat when it didn’t make any difference he said it was to remind the two major parties that, as much as they’d like to ignore the fact, there were other choices.

He was a smart man my dad.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Why I Reject Christianity

I’ve been asked this question a number of times so here’s my attempt at an explanation.

I reject Christianity for two reasons. The lesser of the two reasons is that intellectually I find much of its doctrine utterly absurd. An obvious problem with a statement like this is the lack of common doctrine between different branches of Christianity. I’m not going to try and sort that out. If a particular doctrine listed below doesn’t apply to your particular brand of Christianity, feel free to ignore it.

Christian beliefs that I find absurd include, but are not necessarily limited to:

Rejection of the Theory of Evolution
If there is a first cause related to my leaving the church, this is it. As far as I can see Evolution is a fact, pure and simple. Are there lots of questions related to how, when, why and where? You bet there are but there is no question to my mind about “if.” Christianity’s continued rejection of the Theory of Evolution led me to first begin to question the validity of Christianity itself.

The inerrancy of the Bible
Unlike most Christians I’ve actually read the bible. I don’t see how anyone with an ounce of common sense or any objectivity whatsoever can conclude that the bible is “inerrant.” Yes I know that Christian Apologists have devised “explanations” that demonstrate that the errors and inconsistencies aren’t really errors and inconsistencies. I applaud their creativity but find their arguments totally unconvincing.

The bible is the word of God
There are only three things that I am absolutely certain of and one of them is that the bible is not the word of God. This sort of reinforces the conclusion that its not inerrant doesn’t it? Why would God (1) care whether a woman is a virgin or not on her wedding night, (2) feel obligated to include a census of the Hebrew Tribes in Numbers and (3) go into such excruciating detail about the right way to sacrifice animals? And that's not to mention Balaam's Donkey in Numbers 22 or the Test for an Unfaithful Wife in Numbers 5.

The concept of Adam and Eve
A “perfect” creation that didn’t understand the difference between good and evil? A talking snake? Punishing someone for disobedience when they didn’t know the difference between good and evil and therefore didn’t know the difference between right and wrong?

The virgin birth
Sure. Happens all the time (*cough, cough*). This strikes me as a sort of Christianity trying to keep up with the Horuses. It's basically a ripoff of the numerous pagan virgin births. I might point out that if it was a virgin birth, then Joseph wasn't the father therefore Jesus was not of the House of David and therefore couldn't be the Messiah.

The gospel miracles
Why should I believe in these miracles any more than the reputed miracles performed by Apollonius of Tyana or the Emperor Vespasian?

The doctrine of the Atonement
This is possibly the central doctrine of Christianity and one which makes absolutely no sense. Why would God, whose making up all the rules to begin with, have to incarnate himself as a human being and die a rather messy death in order to “save” humanity from its sinful ways? Sinful ways I might add that were inherent in the creation that God created! Why not simply tell everyone to say ten Hail Marys and five “Our Fathers” to atone for their sins? Hell, it works for the Catholic Church. By the way, if Jesus was God, who the hell was he praying to in the Garden of Gethsemene? Himself?

The Trinity
You can say that one is three and three is one as often and as loudly as you like and it's still total gibberish. The Trinity grew out of how to reconcile the divinity of Jesus with the concept of monotheism. The fact of the matter is that the two concepts are totally irreconcilable but that didn’t stop Christianity from coming up with an apologetic that did “reconcile” them.

The bodily resurrection of Jesus
Sure. Happens all the time (*cough, cough*). The sun god raising again on the 3rd day is a straightforward astrological event associated with the Winter Solstice which occurs on December 22nd. That what makes December 25th such a big day in pagan astrological circles. Think there's a relationship here perhaps?

The concept of an infinite punishment for finite crimes, and even for relatively trivial finite crimes, is not the attribute of a supposedly just God. And if God isn’t just, we’re pretty much screwed no matter what.

To my knowledge no Christian has ever been able to come up with an attractive explanation as to what Heaven is actually like. Most of the descriptions sound downright boring or even scary. Besides, if Evangelical Christians are going to Heaven, then it’s not a place where any self-respecting rational human being would want to hang out.

Turn the Other Cheek
This has got to be the absolute worst advice I’ve ever heard of. A wise man once said that the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil if for good men to stand by and do nothing. You will excuse me but evil must be fought and injustice must be fought and they must be fought with violence if necessary.

The Meek will Inherit the Earth
The second thing that I am absolutely certain of is that the meek are not going to inherit the earth unless it’s a microsecond or two before the extinction of the species (by the way, the third thing I’m absolutely certain of is that the scientific method works).

There are probably more but these will do for now. However, remember I said that this is the lesser of the two reasons. The greater of the two reasons is the dishonesty of Christians.

Whether it is arguing against evolution, pushing for bible study in the public school or advocating the display of the Ten Commandments, I am absolutely disgusted at the total lack of respect for truth and simple honesty.

I’m not talking about differences of opinion. Honest men can disagree. I’m talking about blatant lying and distortion.

Let me give one example. Let’s talk about the 2nd Law of Thermodynamics also sometimes called the law of entropy. The 2nd law simply states that the entropy of an isolated system which is not in equilibrium will tend to increase over time, approaching a maximum value at equilibrium.

In other words, left to themselves things get more chaotic and not more ordered. A broken down building doesn’t repair itself it gets increasingly broken down until it collapses and reaches "equilibrium."

Creationists point to the second law and say it proves that evolution, which Creationists view as calling for increasing order, cannot be valid.

Well, they’re wrong. The reason they’re wrong are the two words “isolated system” in the definition. An “isolated system,” cannot import energy. But the earth’s ecology imports energy constantly from the sun. Therefore it is not an “isolated system” and the second law doesn’t apply (it might apply to the universe as a whole but that’s a whole different issue).

This is one of the more famous Points Refuted A Thousand Times or PRATTs. Yet you will continue to find this claim on numerous Christian Creationist web sites along with a smattering of quotes from physicists, biologists or other famous folks that imply they agree with the Creationist argument. In reality however, the quotes are knowingly either taken totally out of context, and often a context which specifically refutes Creationist arguments, or are knowingly related to the second law under circumstances not even remotely related to the Theory of Evolution.

This is dishonesty. You can’t twist it, you can’t turn it; it is a bald faced disregard for the truth. It is this kind of dishonesty that convinced me that Christianity is a bankrupt philosophy devoid of truth and unworthy of adherence or respect.

This was an emotional reaction. The intellectual reaction I outlined as the first reason came later. You can argue with me on the reasonableness of the doctrines and you might even get me to concede a bit (although its not very likely unless you have some arguments I haven’t heard) but there is no way in pluperfect hell you are going to convince me that any philosophy that relies upon dishonesty can be anything other than false.

Please, don’t hit me with the “no true Scotsman” argument that only some Christians, the “bad Christians,” are dishonest and not the majority of “good Christians.” You will excuse me but the deafening silence of the “good Christians” criticizing and refuting the dishonesty of the “bad Christians” speaks for itself.

So that’s the deal. It was realizing that Christians lied with regularity when pushing their religious views that led me to originally question my faith. Since then I’ve followed a fairly long and twisted road to arrive at where I am at the moment. I’m sure my journey isn’t at an end, and won't be while I continue to breathe, but I’m also pretty sure, not positive but pretty sure, that the way is forward and not back.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Gay Violence over Proposition 8

Apparently there have been some nasty incidents in California including one in San Francisco where gays physically helped a religious group preaching conversion to heterosexuality to leave the neighborhood.

I’m getting a kick out of all the Conservative sites and blogs essentially screaming “see, they’re intolerant too.”

You know a philosophy is bankrupt when “tu quoque” is the only defense it can come up with.

Personally I think Proposition 8 was something of a wake-up call. A lot more people now realize that the enemy is religion. The Mormons and the Knights of Columbus, both of whom donated a lot of money to get Proposition 8 passed, have a lot to answer for in their support of Proposition 8.

Personally I think the Mormon Church should lose its tax exempt status and if the K of C is tax exempt, then it should lose that status as well.

I’m not a supporter of violence but there are times when you are left with no choice. You know the old saying, “Ballot Box, Jury Box and then Cartridge Box.”

As for the specific incident, if I were gay I would take a group of Christians praying for me to return to being straight as an insult of the first order of magnitude. You insult people that badly, you better be ready to fight.

I don’t buy this we returned love for hate crap either. Pitching your religious garbage is hate pure and simple. You are effectively telling people that they are evil and damned if they don’t kowtow to your brand of superstition. Calling it love doesn’t change the situation one iota.

I used to ignore folks pitching religion on the street. Now I make it a point to challenge them. Hey, it’s a free country and the first amendment is still in force and that means I have freedom of speech just like the gays in San Francisco have freedom of speech.

Post on Proposition 8

Geoffrey Stone in a post on Proposition 8, the California measure which overturned a court ruling and outlawed same sex marriage, presents statistics that the defeat of the measure looked to be something of a religious affair.

For instance, Evangelical Christians supported the ban 81% to 19% and those who said they attended church services weekly supported it 84% to 16%. On the flip side, non-Christians opposed it 85% to 15% and those who don’t attend church regularly opposed it 83% to 17%.

Stone finds these numbers disturbing and makes the statement “Christian Evangelicals have every right to try to persuade others to accept and abide by their beliefs. But they have no right - indeed, they violate the very spirit of the American Constitution - when they attempt to conscript the authority of the state to compel those who do not share their religious beliefs to act as if they do.”

While I tend to agree with Stone, I’m not certain what one can do about it. How does one separate a “religious belief” from any other kind of “belief?”

While it might be obvious to you and me that an Evangelical Christian is voting based upon a religious belief, I’m not that sure he would agree. As far as gay marriage is concerned he believes he’s defending traditional non-religious values and as far as abortion access is concerned he believes he’s opposing murder.

This brings us back to an ongoing argument that I have with a number of people. To my mind Evangelical Christianity is fundamentally incompatible with American Democracy. In order to support both you have to bifurcate your thinking processes, compartmentalize your beliefs and be able to understand that your religious beliefs should not dictate the laws of a multicultural democracy.

It takes a very sophisticated, fairly well educated and intelligent person to do that. The 19% of Evangelical Christians that voted against Proposition 8 probably fall into that category. The other 81% probably don’t and most likely do not understand that what the preacher preaches on Sunday ain’t necessarily what the sheriff should be enforcing on Monday.

If you consider this a problem, and I agree with Stone that it is, you have one of two options. Option #1 is to try and move more people from the latter category into the former. Personally I think this would be an effort in futility. We are never going to get a lion’s share of Evangelical Christians to understand that their religious beliefs shouldn’t effectively be the law of the land. After all, isn’t this a Christian country that should be governed based upon biblical principles?

Option #2 is to attack Evangelical Christianity itself with the ultimate objective of destroying it. If there aren’t any Evangelical Christians, then they can’t try and use the law to enforce their religious beliefs on the rest of us now can they?

I’ve been a supporter of Option #2 while most folks I know are still are trying to figure out how to get Option #1 to work. It ain’t never going to happen. You might as well try and convince Ann Coulter that she should tell the truth occasionally.

When I say attack I don’t mean physically (although I wouldn’t take that option off the table), I mean intellectually. Christianity in general, and the fundamentalist variety in particular, is wide open to assault on both the intellectual and back alley levels. It has so much absurd dogma that it would be like shooting fish in a barrel if, and this is the big if, we can rid ourselves of the “religion deserves respect” axiom.

There has always been a small cadre of intellectuals attacking religion. What is needed is for us regular folks to pitch in whenever possible. It’s not easy because you will offend people and people don’t like being offended. The Internet helps because you can attack anonymously. When the day comes that folks do it face to face we will have begun to grow up as a species.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Things I do

Now that the election is over and, at least temporarily, I have nothing to obsess over and drive myself crazy with, what the hell am I going to do with myself?

Well, let’s see. Work takes up most of my time. I hit the gym five to six times a week. I do intend to continue updating my silly little blog occasionally. Then there are always the Giant’s games at the stadium and on TV to get all upset about. My kids still drive me nuts from time to time and last, but not least, there’s World of Warcraft.

Ah yes, good old WoW. Talk about a money printing machine. The latest expansion, Wrath of the Lich King or WoTLK, is scheduled for release tomorrow November 13th, 2008 or, more accurately, at midnight tonight. Local Electronics Boutiques, including the one I ordered WoTLK from, are going all out with masquerade parties leading up to the big 12 Midnight availability when you can actually get your copy for $39.99.

They will probably sell a million copies the first day. Blizzard released a huge new content update a week ago in preparation for WoTLK so everything is supposedly ready to go. Assuming I don’t encounter any installation adventures, which is no where near a sure thing, I should be up and running sometime Thursday night (no I’m not going to pick up my copy at midnight).

While WoW is getting a tad long in the tooth and too familiar, they keep updating and “improving” the thing so it sort of manages to keep your interest. I put “improving” in quotes because while generally the new stuff is good, some of it I can do without.

A whole new continent to explore, 10 more levels to gain and lots of new bad guys to take out, might be just what the doctor ordered.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Now That the Fur Has Settled a Bit

Two days have passed since the election and the glow of satisfaction is just beginning to fade.

The world appears to approve of the U.S. election result with the most common sentiment I’ve heard being something along the lines of “it’s about time you guys came to your senses.”

The economic woes haven’t miraculously repaired themselves however and that appears to be what will be dominating Obama’s time for the foreseeable future.

In very late breaking election news, North Carolina has gone into the Obama column while Missouri and the second district of Nebraska are back in the “beats the heck out of us” category although McCain leads in both. That makes the current totals Obama – 364, McCain – 162, Too close to Call – 12.

Clearly Barack is not expecting everyone to get in a circle and sing Kumbaya given his appointment of Rahm Emmanuel as Chief of Staff. Emmanuel is a “make it happen” kind of guy. If at first you don’t agree with him, he’ll drag you kicking and screaming over to where you need to be.

Over on the Republican side the persecution of the innocent has begun and the morons are emerging from the woodwork. The persecuted innocent is Sarah Palin who, while she may not have been much of a help, certainly shouldn’t shoulder the lion’s share of the blame for the McCain debacle.

The moron is Tony Perkins of Focus on the Family who’s screeching that clearly the Republican Party needs to shift further right and expunge any and all moderates. Tony cites the wins over gay marriage in California, Florida and Arizona as evidence for that idea but doesn’t mention the anti-abortion defeats in California, Colorado and South Dakota.

Here’s the deal, a majority of Americans don’t like the idea of calling legal unions between gays marriage. They no longer appear to have a problem with extending full legal protection to gay couples they just don’t want to call it marriage. How about that as a reasonable compromise? Provide the same legal protections and just call is something else. That would pretty much eliminate the sole issue the GOP has.

I can’t think of a worse idea for the Republicans than to shift to the right. Obama won this election by spreading his appeal into the center. In the final analysis it’s the moderate center that determines elections.

If I were the Republicans the thing that would scare the hell out of me from election night would be the fact that voters in the 18-29 age range voted for Obama by a margin of 2-1. Add that to the fact that younger voters are more likely to be less religious and more secular implies that letting religious fruitcakes like Perkins steer the Republican ship is an absolutely insane idea.

But enough of that nonsense, let’s talk about something important. What kind of dog is Barack going to get his daughters?

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Election 2008

Dang it feels so good to be wrong. It feels so good to learn that all my paranoia was just that, paranoia. What Bradley effect?

I sat with my Windows Vista laptop (yes, I’m a PC) with CNN, and tabs. The CNN map provided the raw update information and the map provided a list of which news networks (ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC and the AP) had called which states plus a running total of electoral votes called by all networks, dark blue or dark red on the map, and those called by at least one network, light blue or light red on the map. On both maps all you had to do was run the mouse pointer over a state to get the display information. I had the TV tuned to NBC with the sound off, because lord were they annoying, to get the occasional piece of insight. At Nate Silver was providing snippits of information related to the relative performance of Obama vs. Kerry. Silver was right on target about Indiana remaining close and Virginia eventually going to Obama.

There were some scary moments in the early going. McCain appeared to be pulling away in Indiana and clearly Virginia was not going to be an early call. Then Obama pulled ahead in Florida. At they were declaring that Obama had more reason to be excited about Florida than Virginia.

Vermont was the first state to be called for Obama.

At 8:00 PM EST the polls in New England and the North Atlantic coast closed and immediately almost all the Blue States (is that term even meaningful anymore?), Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland and New Jersey plus the District of Columbia, fell into the Obama camp. The sole exception was Pennsylvania. The early returns from Ohio and North Carolina looked promising but the main focus was Pennsylvania.

Illinois went blue as soon as its polls closed.

Somewhere around 8:30 NBC and ABC called Pennsylvania for Obama. It was an enormous relief as one by one the other networks followed and Pennsylvania turned dark blue on my map.

Since New Hampshire had gone dark blue earlier that meant Obama would carry all of the Kerry states for a total of 252 electoral votes and now the wait began for Red States to flip. The polls had closed in Colorado and New Mexico at 9:00. We’d have to wait for Iowa until 10:00.

In the meantime Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, New York and Rhode Island remained true and turned dark blue on my map.

I had this fleeting paranoia attack of my nightmare scenario coming true only it was Colorado that refused to go blue rather than Pennsylvania.

While I was focusing on Colorado, Ohio on my CNN map flipped to blue. I just stared at it. Remembering the fiasco in 2000 with Florida I refrained from getting overly excited but I knew that if it held up, the election was essentially over and all that was left was for the clock to get to 11:00 when the West Coast polls closed.

Ohio held and the question was no longer would Obama win but how big was the victory going to be.

In the meantime New Mexico went blue.

At 10:00 Iowa joined her sister states in the Obama column. One has to wonder what the Republicans were smoking when they claimed Iowa was a dead heat. At 11:55 NBC switched to local news. I didn’t hear much of what they said. I was watching the clock on my cable box tick off the minutes.

At 11:00 NBC switched back to network news and we were greeted with a picture of a smiling Barack Obama and the declaration that he had been elected the 44th President of the United States as California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii added their votes to Obama’s total.

It was over, but it was far from over. Nevada, Colorado, Florida and even a tardy Virginia eventually joined the parade of states declaring for Barack Obama.

The current numbers stand at 349 – 173 as some networks have now given Indiana to Obama. North Carolina, as of 10:00 AM EST November 5th 2008, is still undecided.

I had lost much of my respect for John McCain because of the campaign he waged and the choices he made (Sarah Palin? Who said Sarah Palin?) but his concession speech last night restored all of it and more. Clearly McCain got some lousy advice.

As for Sarah Palin, it’s too much to hope she’ll go away. There is going to be a come to Jesus debate in the Republican Party about what to do now and Palin is clearly a favorite of the right wing conservative social values segment of the party. Luckily I think there are calmer, more talented and far more appropriate leaders in the Republican Party such as Charlie Crist.

I thought Obama’s acceptance speech in Grant Park was damn good. Of course having 500,000 people hanging on your every word and cheering everything you said helped. The one shot that I will always remember was Jessie Jackson in tears as he listened to Obama speak.

It wasn’t all good news however. The Pro-choice cause did well but Gay Rights took it on the chin.

Anti-abortion measures in Colorado, California and South Dakota all went down to defeat. I believe the American people are making it clear that they do not want the government to regulate what is clearly a medical issue.

The biggest disappointment of the night was that Proposition 8 passed in California. This is a bitter disappointment especially given the underhanded tactics used by the Proposition 8 supporters. Similar prohibitions against gay marriage passed in Arizona and Florida. Arkansas outlawed adoptions by gay couples.

Clearly we have some work to do in this area. But notice how the battlefield has shifted slightly. In Arizona the measure that passed was much less restrictive than the measure that was defeated the last time around and left open the possibility of equal legal rights under something like a Civil Union.

What’s happening is that slowly, but surely, equal legal protection is being accepted. Folks just don’t want to call it marriage. Actually, I could probably live with that compromise but I’m not gay so it’s not really my choice.

Now comes the hard part. Obama has to figure out a way to maintain the enthusiasm and work not only with the new Democratic Congress but with the Republicans as well. Then he has to figure out how to address the enormous problems facing the country and the world.

Can we all manage to work together and change the world?

Yes we can.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008



If you don't, you will regret it for the rest of your life.

Monday, November 03, 2008

Thoughts on Election Eve

Tomorrow evening we’ll learn whether Barack Obama will become the next President of the United States or whether the country has decided to betray its legacy and go with the “safe choice.”

To be quite honest with you I believe that McCain, far from being the safe choice, is the reckless choice when it’s someone as unqualified as Sarah Palin waiting in the wings.

If Obama wins it will a great victory for liberty and equality and the zeitgeist will progress a little further. Should he lose, it will be a disappointment and a setback. But it will only be a temporary setback.

Right wing reactionaries have been standing in the schoolhouse door of progress for as long as anyone can remember. Often they appear to be too strong to overcome. But, in the end, as people become better educated and learn not to fear people that are different or ideas that are new, liberalism finds a way to triumph.

If McCain wins things will look bleak indeed with a President and a Vice President that think this a Christian nation and that Christianity should have special privileges, that the jury is still out on global warming, that a woman shouldn’t control her own body, that gays should be second class citizens and that you can build an economy from the top down.

Bleak, but not hopeless, we just have to regroup and continue the fight.

Victory is certain. The only questions are how long will it take and what will be the cost?

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Guess what? It's STILL all about Pennsylvania

Sean Quinn at wrote a post this AM declaring that Pennsylvania is a done deal for the Democrats and that he expects the Presidential race in that state to be over as soon as the polls close.

I hope he's right.

Quinn sees the fact that the only Democratic stop planned in Pennsylvania is by Joe Biden on his way back to Delaware as evidence that the Obama campaign is not concerned about Pennsylvania.

I agree they don't appear to be concerned. The question is should they be? Last week Obama warned against overconfidence. Perhaps he should have listened to himself a tad better.

The polls close at 8:00 PM EST in Pennsylvania so we'll know pretty early if Sean is right.

We started out the year with the greatest surprise in Super Bowl history when the Giants beat the unbeaten Pats. Let's hope we don't balance the year out with the greatest comeback in Political History.

Allow me to Clarify about Offense and Defense

Sheesh, yes I know the difference between offense and defense and yes I know that Obama is campaigning in the red states.

The problem is he doesn't NEED any more red states. He needs to hold Pennsylvania. While he and his general staff are engaged in futile attempts in Arizona, Georgia and North Dakota, McCain is on the verge of stealing Pennsylvania which should have been easy to hold.

Read my lips. Obama is not going to win Arizona, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, Missouri, Georgia or North Dakota. He may win Virginia but it's going to be close.

Pennsylvania is the key. Rather than screwing around in states he can't win, Obama should be insuring victory in Pennsylvania. Maybe this was an attempt to distract McCain from his goal in Pennsylvania but McCain is like a bulldog and isn't about to let go once he has made up his mind.

And what happens if, as unlikely as it seems, Iowa is back in play? Not a problem if Obama wins Pennsylvania, but a loosing position if he only wins Virginia.

I think the Democrats are beginning to believe the talk of a landslide. I just don't think they realize who it is that might get buried.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Obama on the Defensive

I know the difference between offense and defense, the difference between advancing and retreating and the difference between pressing home an advantage and just trying to hang on.

Incredible as it seems the Democrats are on the defensive, retreating and just trying to hang on in the last three days of the campaign. The McCain Pennsylvania strategy is clearly working. I base this upon a significant drop in Obama's lead in the polls and the increasingly shrill cries for help by the ground troops in the Keystone State.

To make matters worse, the Obama campaign appears to have miscalculated its finances and now faces a last minute situation in which McCain has more money than Obama.

So what the hell were they doing buying air time in Arizona and North Dakota?

Like I said a while back, its the Democrats stupid. Experts at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.

Still, the lead Obama has amassed may be too formidable for McCain to overcome. Then again, it may not be. I hate to say it but my nightmare scenario appears to be taking shape. I'm afraid it's going to be a very long night.

Virginia and Florida close at 7:00 PM EST, Ohio at 7:30 PM EST and Pennsylvania at 8:00 PM EST so we should have a pretty good feel by 9:00 PM EST just how long an evening it will be.