Thoughts At Large

Passionate thoughts on random topics

Tag: Election

Women

“That we have the vote means nothing. That we use it in the right way means everything.”  Lou Henry Hoover, First Lady of the United States 1929-1933

As we wind down to the end of a presidential campaign that feels as if it’s been going on since the early Bronze Age, the overarching story of this election can be summarized in one word – women.

It began with the nomination of a woman by one of the two major parties. It devolved into stories about the treatment of women by the nominee of the other major party. And it will be settled by the largest demographic within the voting public – women.

According to one recent poll, Hillary Clinton is leading among women by 33%. Eric Trump famously made the mistake of posting a map showing his father ahead nationally but omitting the fact that the map showed what the results would look like if only men voted. Here is that map:

if-only-men-voted

The map shows Mr. Trump winning the White House with an Electoral College tally of 350 versus 188 for Secretary Clinton. Unfortunately for Eric Trump, people noticed, and the response was savage. Here is the obverse map showing what the election results would look like if only women voted:

if only women voted.png

As you can see, Secretary Clinton would win the Electoral College with a staggering tally of 458 votes versus Mr. Trump’s meager 80 votes. And therein lies the story of this election. Women will decide the outcome. Here is Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight site on the potential effect this disparity would have on the general election:

“To put those numbers in perspective, that’s saying Trump would defeat Clinton among men by a margin similar to Dwight D. Eisenhower’s landslide victory over Adlai Stevenson in 1952, while Clinton would defeat Trump among women by a margin similar to … actually, there’s no good comparison, since no candidate has won a presidential election by more than 26 percentage points since the popular vote became a widespread means of voting in 1824. To get to 33 points, you’d have to take the Eisenhower-Stevenson margin and add Lyndon B. Johnson’s 23-point win over Barry Goldwater in 1964 on top of it.”

And while you may not like everything (or anything) about Secretary Clinton, she has worked hard to earn women’s votes. One of her greatest surrogates has been another woman, First Lady Michelle Obama, who has been phenomenally effective on the campaign trail. On the other hand, Mr. Trump has stumbled his way toward the election by demeaning women (among many other groups) and been accused of sexual assault by eleven women. And one of his greatest surrogates has been Mayor Guiliani who has himself had a checkered past with women and who recently suggested that Mr. Trump would be better for the United States “than a woman.” Considering that women constitute the largest voting block in America, wouldn’t it be better for Republicans to embrace women than to shun them if they ever hope to win the White House again. Especially given the inevitable demographic changes altering the United States, all of which favor Democrats and which Republicans have ignored to this point at their peril. Sorry, but gerrymandering can only take you so far.

2016 will be known as the year that a woman shattered one of the greatest glass ceilings left in the world, the American presidency, but perhaps it should be better known as the year that women used their collective voices to change the course of an election and therefore history.

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House (and Senate) Calls

DFAGunsSharable (1) 

 The NRA is frothing at the mouth again, this time over the President’s nominee for Surgeon General. The reason? The President’s nominee, Vivek Murthy, MD, MBA and a member of Doctors for America, had the audacity to say in a January 9, 2013 letter to Vice President Biden that guns are a public health care issue. In response to the nomination, the NRA sent a letter to President Obama calling on him to reject his nominee.

“Who is this 37 year old foreigner and political hack King Obama has nominated? And why should we listen to a physician regarding firearms?”

I’m glad you asked.

First, this “foreigner” is a US citizen who was born in the UK and moved with his parents to Florida when he was three years old. He graduated as valedictorian from his high school in Miami. He then graduated magna cum laude (in 3 years) from Harvard University with a bachelor’s degree in Biochemical Sciences. He then received an MD from Yale School of Medicine and an MBA in Health Care Management from Yale School of Management, where he was a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellow. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine in at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is currently a physician at Brigham & Women’s and an instructor at Harvard University.

Now, as to your second question, firearms cause injury to human flesh. It is the emergency departments of local hospitals that see the carnage and devastation guns cause. It is the physician’s duty to save lives. A physician does not receive a dossier on the patient in front of them bleeding from a gunshot wound. They do not pause to determine the legality/justification of the gun’s discharge. They only see the damage. Following the horror at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14, 2012, 52 medical organizations joined forces to send letters to the leaderships of the United States Senate, the United States House of Representatives and directly to the President of the United States. The audacity, indeed.

Of course, it is not the 52 medical organizations calling for change or Dr. Murthy’s CV the NRA really has a problem with, although even the thought of any gun control leads the NRA to a version of reduction ad absurdum apparently leading to tyranny, confiscation, black helicopters, concentration camps and a socialistic New World Order. Rather, it is the position of the organization Dr. Murthy founded, Doctors for America, whose mission statement reads:

“Doctors for America is a national movement of physicians and medical students working together to improve the health of the nation and to ensure that everyone has access to affordable, high quality health care.”

And whose core values and culture are listed as:

    1. We are bold and fearless.
    2. We are creative and flexible.
    3. We value everyone.  Every voice matters.
    4. We cultivate strong relationships and a family spirit with partners and colleagues.
    5. We are accountable to one another in our individual and collective work.
    6. We are open and honest.
    7. We are passionate and determined.
    8. We grow and learn and help others do the same.
    9. We have fun and celebrate!
    10. 10. We ensure every action meets our highest standard: will it help create a healthier America for everyone?

End times, indeed. But it is the group’s position on gun violence prevention that has the NRA exorcised. Once again, facts be damned, Obama’s coming for our guns! And once again, our feckless Congress is caving to the NRA’s demands. Yesterday, in an editorial piece in the New York Times, the editorial board wrote that, “There are now reports that the White House and Senate Democratic leaders might delay a vote on the nomination until after the midterm elections or urge the nominee to withdraw.” Unconscionable.

In Common Sense, Thomas Paine, writing to General William Howe, wrote:

arguing with the dead

Shame on the NRA, but more shame on Congress, should they not vigorously defend this nominee. Gun violence is a public health crisis. To ignore it is an abdication of responsibility, against the wishes of Americans and placating the lowest common denominator of society.

Inertia

Bullet Flag

It has been one year since the awful events of December 14, 2012 occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. One year since a disturbed individual availed himself of the arsenal his mother had legally purchased and shattered families in the little New England town and horrified individuals throughout the country and the world. Reaction was swift (except for the NRA) and all signs pointed to a paradigm shift occurring in the long argued battle over gun rights in America.

However, it proved to be a difficult year, not just for the families forced to endure each holiday or family event without their loved one. Indeed, for these uncounted victims, while they did not lose their lives on that fateful day, they certainly lost the lives they had known and the futures for which they had planned and expected. Daily events, done thousands of times before, took on a new, mechanical air as they searched to redefine “normal.” It is for these people and the loved ones they have lost that many people joined the voices of those calling for change. As I searched for some way to understand the past year’s events, the term “inertia” kept clawing into my mind. And so, using the words of Sir Isaac Newton, I begin:

“Every body perseveres in its state of rest, or of uniform motion in a right line, unless it is compelled to change that state by forces impressed thereon.” Axioms or Laws of Motion, Law I, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, page 12, Sir Isaac Newton, 5 July 1687

Prior to the multiple, brutal mass shootings of 2012, organizations such as the Brady Campaign To Prevent Gun Violence and its legislative arm the Legal Action Project have been fighting the ever increasingly extremist positions of the NRA in courts across the country securing minor victories against a tide of right wing battles which have resulted in concealed carry becoming legal in all 50 states, open carry laws spreading like spilled blood across the country and stand your ground laws allowing shoot first confrontations to become immune to punishment and rationale to the paranoid. In addition, the NRA has systematically enticed Congress to reduce funding for firearm violence research, rendered impotent the ATF and exempted gun manufacturers from all product liability responsibility; this seismic shift occurring despite the screams of those opposing the proliferation of guns and warning of their inevitable violent toll on society. However, to the general public, raised on and catered to by sound bites and instant gratification, these long-term societal changes went unnoticed.

To use Newton’s terminology, the body (society) persevered in a state of rest (miasmic banality) WHILE it was (quietly) compelled to change that state by forces (NRA) impressed thereon. In effect, while we were distracted by other crises being broadcast 24/7 on cable news, it took the events of 2012 for us to realize not only the playing field had changed, but that we were in the third quarter of a different sport. In doing so, lives were lost, families destroyed and history altered. Shame on us.

 “The alteration of motion is ever proportional to the motive force impressed; and is made in the direction of the right line in which that force is impressed.”  Axioms or Laws of Motion, Law II, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, page 12, Sir Isaac Newton, 5 July 1687

Many people began to wake up following the midnight movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20th. Most did not. The momentum created by the murders culminated in prayer vigils, moments of silence and an increase in gun sales across the country, including in Aurora.

Unfortunately, it would take another, even more mind-twisting event to wake the majority of Americans.  Only 147 days later, another disturbed individual, armed with a weapon of war, laid bare America as a gun violence dystopia to a disbelieving world. Suddenly, there was an outrage that flashed longer than a prayer filled candlelight vigil, longer than a moment of silence. People from across the country looked directly at the entities responsible for allowing this type of future to unfold: the gun lobby and the elected officials that they owned. Ever aware of their behind the scenes effectiveness and ability to outlast the public, the gun lobby “pleaded” with America not to politicize the tragedy arguing that it was not the right time to discuss legislation when so many families were in immediate pain. Unbelievably, and counter to all rational thinking, the NRA responded by saying the cure for gun violence was more guns. More cancer is not the cure for cancer. Drilling more holes in the bottom of the boat is not the cure for a sinking vessel. Eating more steak is not the cure for heart disease. But according to the NRA, more guns will cure America of its gun violence. Across the country, the sound of gears, springs and cogs could be heard crashing out of the logical brains of rational people.

Over the following months, a groundswell of accidental activists began asking, aloud, what could be done to change our society, to create a future where our children were safe from the hail of bullets in a country awash in firearms. The well-oiled machine that is the gun lobby sent forth their legion of followers with canned arguments too short to fill a bumper sticker and too simplistic to defend. Here, Newton’s second law of motion became evident. The trajectory the gun lobby had set the country upon was being impressed upon with a motive force from the majority of Americans not beholden to a gun metal deity. The new activists credited those who had been fighting all along for their successes and acknowledge, in Newton’s own words that, “If I have seen further it is by standing on the shoulders of Giants.”

“To every Action there is always opposed an equal Reaction: or the mutual actions of two bodies upon each other are always equal, and directed to contrary parts.” Axioms or Laws of Motion, Law III, Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy, page 13, Sir Isaac Newton, 5 July 1687

However, as predicted and anticipated by the gun lobby, America’s fickle attention wandered to other crises. Gun safety legislation, considered unassailable in December, sputtered and crashed when the gun lobby reminded Senate Republicans (and a few Democrats in red states) who owned them. And this is when the most amazing part of the story occurred. Those accidental activists demanding gun safety did not fold up their tents and go home. To the chagrin of the gun lobby, the activists absorbed the legislative loss, considered it a learning opportunity and realized that the change they saw as necessary and obvious would not be achieved immediately. It was a marathon, not a sprint. Again, to quote Newton, “Men build too many walls and not enough bridges.”

It was this event, the recognition of the gun safety activists that change would take time, which brings us to the question of whether we will remain in Newton’s third law of motion or see further movement because of his second. Will the opposing forces on the gun issue in America push against each other in a long-term stalemate, or will one side emit enough force to alter the trajectory of this issue?

Rather than demand change from the existing politicians locally and nationally, the activists have begun developing campaigns to elect a legislature more conducive to change. Rather than have a hissy-fit and demand a recall when a vote goes against their wishes, activists have embraced a longer term agenda of electing those who will act in the best interest of society and not the best interest of gun manufacturers. They have also sought to change our communities, not through legislation, but with the pressure of the pocketbook. Corporations are being pressured to provide safe shopping environments for their customers devoid of the testosterone-fueled paranoid shouldering their beloved bazooka.

Interestingly enough, the push back seen by the gun enthusiasts has been in the form of misogynistic berating of activists, the creation of “bleeding” gun targets in the image of the president and female gun safety activists and groups of gun-toting enthusiasts parading through towns and posing outside gun safety activist meetings. Is this the best approach the gun lobby can muster? Evidence suggests that these pedantic actions expose the gun lobby as the far right wing paranoids they are. Attacking ones opponent rather than their position will not win arguments. As Cicero said, “He only employs his passion who can make no use of his reason.”

And so here we are, one year out from the horrors of December 14, 2012. Which of Newton’s laws of motion will prevail? Perhaps Newton himself predicted the outcome when he said, “I can calculate the motion of heavenly bodies but not the madness of people.” May logic overcome vitriol and compassion trump paranoia.

Give The People What They Want

Give The People What They Want

I am many things.

Male

White

Short

Overweight

Middle aged

Married

College educated

New England raised

Living in Texas

A son

A husband

A father

An uncle

A nephew

A friend

An enemy

Blue-eyed

Left handed

Employed full-time

Middle class

Homeowner

Car owner

Non-smoker

Independent

I am all of these things and these are measurable demographics used by all manner of people and organizations in order to sell me things and, in politics, theoretically, represent me.

Having been raised in Rhode Island, I grew up thinking the majority of the country was just like me, white, Catholic, middle class. There were blacks and Jews in school with me, and while they were the minority, I did not treat them any differently, nor did they see me (I hope) as an oppressor. They were my friends and part of my world.

As I grew, I began to see the political landscape of Rhode Island as the basis for the fabric of America. At the same time, I joined the workforce and began to understand Churchill’s remark:

“Show me a young Conservative and I’ll show you someone with no heart. Show me an old Liberal and I’ll show you someone with no brains.”

Rhode Island politics is dominated by trade unions. Democrats control the legislature and the state constitution essentially renders the Governor moot. As I began to bring home part-time, high school student paychecks with deductions to anagrams I did not understand, I began to think like a conservative (Republican). I worked for this money; don’t give it to somebody else. Business drives the economy. Without jobs there are no unions. Ayn Rand would have been very proud. But in retrospect, I think this reaction was more a rebellion against the Rhode Island Democrat mindset and less a political ethos. Taxes were too high, handouts too easy and I did not feel my hard work was being protected in the state house. I was a Conservative with no heart.

As with everybody, as we get older, the world gets smaller. College, just next door in neighboring Connecticut, opened my eyes to other religions. No longer was Catholicism the dominant religion. No longer did liberal tendencies dictate legislation. So, too, were these the days of Ronald Reagan’s trickle-down economy. As a burgeoning economics major, this philosophy made sense and met with my understanding and expectation of things. However, as a college student trying to get loans and seeing my parents struggle to shoulder the weightiest financial burden for two college aged children with a third coming up through the ranks, coupled with the seemingly never ending string of corruption issues emanating from the Reagan administration, my conservative leanings were shaken. Was this a reaction to the financial situation I found myself in? Was it a reaction to the broadening of my understanding of the country and the world? Or was it simply another shift against the grain?

Careers, a marriage and parenthood quickly followed. Once again, I found myself trying to provide for my family and build a career in an economy growing under Clinton’s watch through economic structures established by his Republican predecessors. And once again, living in the Rhode Island Union, I saw the expansion of social programs as a long term detriment to the local economy, but those were heady times and we were all (relatively) happy living on the dotcom bubble. When that burst, and September 11, 2001 hit, Rhode Island was slow to respond to the economic crisis that ensued. Like the rest of the country, I was angry and wanted to strike back at somebody for the evil perpetrated on my neighbors (Boston, from where the flights originated and New York). Following the morally damaged presidency of Clinton, I fell into the political pit warned about by Bertrand Russell when I voted for W:

“Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man.”

I had ascribed FDR’s tenet, “I’m not the smartest fellow in the world, but I can sure pick smart colleagues” to W and assumed he would do the same. Unfortunately, I think Kurt Vonnegut put it best when he said:

“The last thing I ever wanted was to be alive when the three most powerful people on the whole planet would be named Bush, Dick and Colon.”

My wife’s diagnosis with an aggressive breast cancer in 2008 forced us to reevaluate our lives. Because family and her survival weighed so much more over career and home, we picked up stakes and moved to Texas to seek treatment at the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston.

At first, this change of environment seemed to meet my expectations and stereotypes. Southerners were friendly and slower. Northerners were rude and always in a hurry. I ignored the conservative predispositions of Texas even though Texas-bred W took us to war in Iraq over bogus intelligence and OBL and the Taliban hid in the lawless Hindu Kush on the Afghanistan/Pakistan border. And even though Rick Perry, W’s intellectual equal, continued to gut the education system and pilfer jobs from other states, it didn’t matter to me as long as my wife was receiving the best medical treatment. My once expanded understanding of the world didn’t matter to me when my family was suffering.

Then, on December 14th of 2012, while working on my laptop at the hospital while my wife was undergoing restaging tests, news broke of a shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut. I read with horror as first the casualty total rose and then it was reported that children were among the victims. That day, coupled with the local reaction in the following weeks caused a seismic shift in my perception and attitude. No longer was Texas the friendly, slow state with questionable education standards and a job-pilfering, slow-witted governor, now it showed itself to be a gun loving, religious zealot, paranoid, racist, American anachronism. Unfortunately, as time elapsed, I came to understand that this political/religious background was neither limited to Texas, nor the south. “Red” states throughout the country began to show their prejudices, paranoia, fear and hatred. The “Gun Control” debate had ripped the genteel mask of civility off of otherwise, (seemingly) generous people. I saw the people who attended the NRA’s Annual Paranoia Jamboree here in Houston. I argued with them. I argued with the dimwitted grandfather who brought his grandson to a gun control rally in Austin to argue for more gun rights. I was scheduled to debate a state senator, who had introduced a firearm protection act, on television, until he chickened out. I had become a liberal without a brain.

And then it hit me. The Kinks were right!

Why, I asked myself, was I always going against the grain? Why were my political positions always running counter to the culture in which I lived? How could I be represented by people so contrary to my positions? Lightbulb! Ted Cruz was elected by people who were pleased by what he claimed to represent. Louie Gohmert was elected by people who believe what he believes. Steve Stockman was elected by people as deranged as him. And so it is. Give the people what they want.

And so, the reason congress is in a perpetual state of paralysis is because America is in a perpetual state of paralysis. We seek to impose our ideal democratic notion on the rest of the world while ignoring fractures at home. Russian president Vladimir Putin wrote, warning America not to consider ourselves exceptional. George Bernard Shaw wrote,

“Patriotism is, fundamentally, a conviction that a particular country is the best in the world because you were born in it….”

The fact I find most interesting is that Congress has a 19% approval rating, according to Gallup. If we elect representatives who represent our interests and convictions, why is our approval of the job they do so low? At heart, are we not happy with our own convictions? The devil is in the details and it is this process that divorces concept (patriotism and democracy) from reality (legislation and personal responsibility). We cannot give the people what they want because they are not prepared to work for that which they think they deserve.

Death of a Party

Really Texas, really?

It is the inevitable third act of every recent election.  The defeated side demands a recount or legal recourse.  It’s the adult version of “It’s not fair. Do over!”  Whether it’s the Democrats (remember Florida in 2000 with their “dangling” and “pregnant” chads) or Karl Rove’s on-air hissy-fit last Tuesday, sometimes facts are ignored and argued as if unfixed.

The presidential election last Tuesday saw a decisive win for President Obama, winning 332 to 206 in the Electoral College and 62,613,406 to 59,140,591 in the popular vote, garnering 62 more electoral votes than he required and winning the popular vote by 3,472,815 (roughly the same as the populations of Alaska, North Dakota, Vermont, Washington, D.C. and Wyoming combined).  These are the facts. To ignore them or dispute them is unproductive folly. Like it or not, President Obama (and the Democrats) will continue to control the White House for four more years.  But before the Republicans began to lick their wounds and regroup, or begin the painful process of self-exploration, too many of their adherents have taken to crying publicly and stomping their feet.

Bertrand Russell said, “The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.” Truer words have never been uttered.  When someone is convinced of the sanctity of their position with absolute certainty, expounding with vitriol and ferocity against the “uneducated masses,” I instinctively dismiss them, protect my children and grab for my wallet.

I always thought that the young, in their idealistic naiveté of wanting to save the world voted Democratic until they began to make some money of their own.  Gradually, their position would change from “save the world” and “help the downtrodden” to “not another slice of my pie” and a NIMBY attitude.  I used to think of Republicans as the party of Alex P. Keaton and Gordon Gecko; market-based capitalists firmly in the Ayn Rand camp of egoism, self-control and material gain.  Perhaps it is a consequence of my having to relocate to Texas in search of the country’s best medical care for my wife, but I now find myself redefining my definition of Republicans.  Nationwide, there has been a shift in the ideals of the Republican Party, carried on the heels of right-wing Christians centered in the Bible-belt.  Every Republican running since Ronald Reagan has run on an outdated, idealistic, fantastic, revisionist historian view of American life in the 1950’s. “If only we could go back to the way it used to be.”  Forgetting, for example, the treatment of women, homosexuals, blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Native Americans, (essentially, everybody who was not a white man), a government that took us to the brink of nuclear annihilation and created a foundation of lies for what would become the Viet Nam war.

Having learned our lessons, through the hard fought civil rights movement, the women’s liberation movement and the return of 11,000 body bags from Viet Nam, Cambodia and Laos (and a generationally divided country where the youth (who were called upon to fight in the war) mistrusted a government that abused it), capitalistic market forces marched on, taking us from the upheaval of the 1960’s to the anti-war crescendo of the mid-1970’s with the overthrow of a sitting president, to the debauchery of the 1970’s and drug-addled 1980’s. The 1990’s saw baby boomers acknowledge that they were the capitalists after all and return to making money, content that they could save the world once their summer home in Maui was paid off.  This brings us to that historical fulcrum, September 11, 2001.  All at once, as the second plane hit the South tower, our insulated, global ignorance shattered with the World Trade Tower glass.  When 3,000 of our neighbors were incinerated that day, we saw in all its naked anger the effects radical religion can have on society.  We did not deserve this assault, but neither did we prevent its happening.  Content to let our government back one Middle Eastern dictator after another (from the Shah in Iran to Saddam Hussein in Iraq, from the Saudi family to Mubarak in Egypt) we lived our lives in happy oblivion under the dated misconception that we were protected by two oceans. Once we circled the wagons and held each other for comfort in the new and terrifying world order where enemies did not march under a recognized flag and so-called “smart bombs” assuaged any guilt we had bombing civilian neighborhoods where our enemies used schools and hospitals as human shields, the Republican party reverted back to a world view that neither existed nor should have existed; a world where minorities, women and homosexuals were heeled under by white middle-aged men and religious zeal validated any injustices.  Unfortunately, or fortunately, the ensuing six decades since the 1950’s saw the “melting pot” of America change the flavors of the stew.  As the number of Asians and Hispanics increased, the percent of the population comprised of whites diminished accordingly.  Republicans continued to ignore this demographic paradigm shift and catered to an ever decreasing slice of Americans.  Emboldened by the Christian right and using all manner of euphemisms for “middle aged white men,” the soundly beaten Republican Party now finds itself at a crossroads.  One road leads to a future based on personal responsibility and social accountability while the other terminates in a dead end in less than ten years.

Nowhere is this battle more evident than in Texas.  In fact, with California (and its 55 electoral votes) and New York (and its 29 electoral votes) solidly blue, Texas (and its 38 electoral votes) is the future of the Republican Party.  As the immigration wave continues to push northward through the country and the young migrate south, typically Republican Texas demographics dwindle.  Seen as reliably red since Lyndon Johnson proclaimed to Bill Moyers after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, “I think we just delivered the South to the Republican Party for a long time to come,” minorities now hold sway over the party’s very existence.  And rather than face this fact, some Texans threaten to do again what they did in 1861, that is to say secede.

Welcome to the new country of MadaNASCAR!

The White House website has created a “We the People” site allowing citizens to create petitions for government consideration.  A cursory view of the site shows that forty-two states have petitions (some multiple as if their citizens cannot read) requesting to “peacefully be allowed to secede from the United States and form their own government.”  However, while most of these petitions will fail to reach the 25,000 signature threshold, upon which a formal response will be generated by the administration, the Texas petition is closing in on 100,000 signatures as of this writing.  Only those petitions from Georgia, Tennessee, Florida, Alabama, Texas and Louisiana have eclipsed the 25,000 signature mark, the second highest tally being Louisiana with just over 33,000 signatures. Ironically, and no doubt created with some caprice, there is a petition which has gathered over 4,000 signatures requesting that the city of Austin be allowed “to withdraw from the state of Texas and remain part of the United States!”

Current Republican intransigence and Texan hubris guarantee the party’s extinction.  There are estimates that Texas will transition to a blue state within the course of the next presidential election cycle.  If that is allowed to occur, if California, Texas and New York are solidly blue, there is virtually no mathematical chance for a Republican to garner the requisite 270 electoral votes to become president.  Covering one’s eyes does not prevent the bus from hitting you.  Threatening to secede does nothing to prevent your losing your seat at the table.  Republicans must acknowledge that it is not 1950 any longer and that minorities (who will not remain “minor” for very much longer), women and homosexuals may soon make up the lion’s share of the electorate and have learned to make their voices known.  Mitt Romney won the male vote 52% to 45%, the 65 and older vote 56% to 44%, the white vote 59% to 39%, the religious vote 59% to 39%, the anti-immigrant (self-deporting is a good and viable idea) vote 73% to 24% and married people vote 56% to 42%.  However, it was clearly not enough. Will we look back upon the 2012 election as the last run by Republicans using the old game plan, having embraced change while encouraging personal responsibility or as a sacrosanct platform used again in 2016 and saw the party of Lincoln fade from relevance and disappear?  In a word, should we help those wanting to secede pack or show them their seat at the new American table?

Perhaps…

Perhaps the Republican Party will reflect on this election loss and consider its implications on their future.

Perhaps the religious right will no longer be the centerpiece of the Republican Party.  America largely ignored Romney’s Mormonism as an issue.  Perhaps Republicans can learn to ignore everybody else’s religion (or lack thereof).  As America becomes increasingly secular, perhaps we can dispense with the politically correct insipidness that it is alright for anybody to believe in creationism after they have attained the age of two and played with a toy dinosaur.  Perhaps the fanaticism employed by the right in their attempts to include God in every discussion should be left to the Islamic fanatics of the Middle East.  Perhaps the frenzied somnambulist’s nightmare of sharia law infiltrating American jurisprudence can be left to the conspiracy theorists.  Surely we can agree that while American’s rejected Romney’s attempt to return the United States to the social constructs of the year 1950, are there any circumstances under which we would accept a return to the Islamic laws of the year 632?  Someone once said that one conspiracy theorist is a schizophrenic, whereas a group of them is a Republican convention.  Perhaps it is time to change that.

Perhaps the right wing will clear themselves of their paranoid miasma of a national “confiscation day,” where President Obama personally goes door-to-door collecting every gun from the self-proclaimed “sane,” 2nd amendment loving, NRA financing, gun lovers.  Perhaps we can have a rational discussion on gun control and agree that ordinary citizens probably do not need a semi-automatic assault rifle with a 100 round clip in order to defend themselves from a burglar, unless the burglar is China, in which case we have an exceedingly well armored military.

Perhaps Republicans can agree that rape is not a topic on which there can be two rational sides.

Perhaps Republicans will see women’s rights and control over their own bodies as sacrosanct and not fodder for white men to debate.

Perhaps marriage equality will extend its foothold in the less religiously rigid states and plant the seeds for a national discussion devoid of homosexuality being considered a moral abomination and “curable.”

Perhaps Republicans will see Latino’s not as a monolithic Democratic voting block consisting of “wetbacks” and illegal (I hate this term) aliens, but rather Americans.  A look at any of the maps used by the networks in last night’s election coverage shows that America, beyond Tim Russert’s Red State/Blue State analogy is really about urban versus suburban, white versus everybody else (captured as that all-encompassing and grossly misrepresentative term “ethnic”).  For example,  white suburban Virginia versus the “ethnic” northern part of the state, white suburban Ohio versus the “ethnic,” blue-collared northern part of the state, white suburban western Pennsylvania versus the “ethnic” Philadelphia region.  See a pattern?  White’s comprise huge swaths of territory, but with few inhabitants versus the “ethnic” and densely populated cities.  The Red State/Blue State paradigm is flawed.  Perhaps, it should be county based, or perhaps it is time for white Americans to stop trying to return America to the “good old days” of segregation and oppressive “white power” and embrace their place in the prismatic colors that are America’s skin tones.

Perhaps Republicans will take this opportunity to unite with Democrats and engage in meaningful arguments about the cataclysmic topics facing America, represent their constituents without abandoning the greater good and moving the needle on America’s march into an energy independent future.  Perhaps we can dispense with the banal name calling and talentless idolatry rampant in America and engender personal responsibility as a manifesto for our children.

Perhaps Donald Trump will donate his $5 million to a charity of his choice and sit down.

Perhaps, but probably not.

Game Day Quotes

The election is finally upon us.  We vote today and await the results tonight.  Tomorrow all the political placards will vanish from our lawns.  All of the candidate commercials on television will give way and our TV’s will once again be bombarded with advertisements for erectile dysfunction prescriptions, Fords, Chevy’s, pizza and college football promotions.  Before we move on to another sporting season, here are a few select quotes on the political process for your amusement and consideration.  As always, comments are appreciated.

“Democracy is a device that ensures we shall be governed no better than we deserve.”  ― George Bernard Shaw

“I do not know if the people of the United States would vote for superior men if they ran for office, but there can be no doubt that such men do not run.”  ― Alexis de Tocqueville

“Our great democracies still tend to think that a stupid man is more likely to be honest than a clever man.”  ― Bertrand Russell

“Democracy is reproached with saying that the majority is always right. But progress says that the minority is always right.”  ― G.K. Chesterton

“Every election is determined by the people who show up.”  ― Larry J. Sabato

“In a republican nation, whose citizens are to be led by reason and persuasion and not by force, the art of reasoning becomes of first importance” ― Thomas Jefferson

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser men so full of doubts.”  ― Bertrand Russell

“Omnia praeclara tam difficilia quam rara sunt (All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare)”  ― Baruch Spinoza

“We in America do not have government by the majority. We have government by the majority who participate.”  ― Thomas Jefferson

“I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made.”  ― Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Those who will not reason, perish in the act. Those who will not act, perish for that reason.”  ― W.H. Auden

“All I have is a voice.”  ― W.H. Auden

“The governor of Texas, who, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that ‘if English was good enough for Jesus, then it’s good enough for me.” ― Christopher Hitchens

“The essence of the independent mind lies not in what it thinks, but in how it thinks.”  ― Christopher Hitchens

“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross.”  ― Sinclair Lewis

“If you are bored and disgusted by politics and don’t bother to vote, you are in effect voting for the entrenched Establishments of the two major parties, who please rest assured are not dumb, and who are keenly aware that it is in their interests to keep you disgusted and bored and cynical and to give you every possible reason to stay at home doing one-hitters and watching MTV on primary day. By all means stay home if you want, but don’t bullshit yourself that you’re not voting. In reality, there is no such thing as not voting: you either vote by voting, or you vote by staying home and tacitly doubling the value of some Diehard’s vote.”  ― David Foster Wallace

“You have to remember one thing about the will of the people: it wasn’t that long ago that we were swept away by the Macarena.”  ― Jon Stewart

“A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.”  ― Edward R. Murrow

“On Undecided Voter​s: “To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. “Can I interest you in the chicken?” she asks. “Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broke​n glass in it?”  To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked.”  ― David Sedaris

“In politics we presume that everyone who knows how to get votes knows how to administer a city or a state. When we are ill… we do not ask for the handsomest physician, or the most eloquent one.”  ― Plato

“If pro is the opposite of con, what is the opposite of Congress?”  ― Will Rogers

“If you actually are an educated, thinking person, you will not be welcome in Washington, D.C. I know a couple of bright seventh graders who would not be welcome in Washington D.C.”  ― Kurt Vonnegut

“The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletariat to the level of stupidity attained by the bourgeoisie.”  ― Gustave Flaubert

“Come senators, congressmen

Please heed the call

Don’t stand in the doorway

Don’t block up the hall

For he that gets hurt

Will be he who has stalled

There’s a battle outside ragin’.

It’ll soon shake your windows

And rattle your walls

For the times they are a-changin’.”  ― Bob Dylan

“Never believe anything in politics until it has been officially denied.”  ― Otto von Bismarck

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.  – Nelson Mandela

“It is a great danger for everyone when what is shocking changes.”  ― Graham Greene

“But, Jefferson worried that the people – and the argument goes back to Thucydides and Aristotle – are easily misled. He also stressed, passionately and repeatedly, that it was essential for the people to understand the risks and benefits of government, to educate themselves, and to involve themselves in the political process.  Without that, he said, the wolves will take over.”  ― Carl Sagan

“Even a purely moral act that has no hope of any immediate and visible political effect can gradually and indirectly, over time, gain in political significance.”  ― Václav Havel

“They deem him their worst enemy who tells them the truth.”  –Plato

“In a democracy, the most important office is the office of citizen.”  ― Louis Brandeis

“Ideology is the science of idiots.”  ― John Adams

“History is changed by martyrs who tell the truth.”  ― Miguel Syjuco

“A thinking man never be a party man.”  ― Friedrich Nietzsche

“Let no one misunderstand our idea; we do not confound what are called ‘political opinions’ with that grand aspiration after progress with that sublime patriotic, democratic, and human faith, which, in our days, should be the very foundation of all generous intelligence.”  ― Victor Hugo

“I take criticism so seriously as to believe that, even in the midst of a battle in which one is unmistakably on one side against another, there should be criticism, because there must be critical consciousness if there are to be issues, problems, values, even lives to be fought for… Criticism must think of itself as life-enhancing and constitutively opposed to every form of tyranny, domination, and abuse; its social goals are noncoercive knowledge produced in the interests of human freedom.”  ― Edward W. Said

“In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology, there were no kings; the consequence of which was there were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throws mankind into confusion.”  ― Thomas Paine

RED, white and BLUE

The presidential election is in four days and the divide in America has once again been colorized for our dim amusement.  It’s the red states versus the blue states! We should all get t-shirts for the $10 billion being spent on the race, a patriotic “shirts versus skins” game for the world to observe.  Is this a case of north versus south, east versus west, the egomaniacal one-per-centers versus the torpid proletariat, big business versus farmers, cities versus the heartland?  Classify it however you want.  Categorize it until it meets your expectations.  But the differences are there.  First, the facts:

Blue States Red States
Population 63.4% 36.4%
Land Mass 35.9% 64.1%
Population Density, people per sq. mile 659 75
Median Age 37.4 36.0
White America 67.9% 73.8%
Black America 10.6% 11.7%
Latino America 12.6% 8.3%
Asian America 5.4% 1.8%
Foreign Born Americans 11.5% 5.5%
High School Graduation Rates 87.4% 85.5%
Bachelor’s Degrees 30.6% 24.2%
Home of Top 50 Universities 40 10
Veterans 62.2% 37.8%
Military Recruits, per 1,000 eligible 18-24 2.07 2.49
Median Home Value $260,089 $141,129
Median Household Income $56,293 $46,696
Unemployment 7.8% 7.0%
Poverty Rate 12.2% 14.9%
Obesity Rate 25.5% 28.7%
Businesses 66.8% 33.2%
Women-Owned Businesses 15.7% 15.2%
New Home Construction 50.8% 49.2%
Marriage Rates, per 100,000 7.9% 7.3%
Divorce Rates, per 100,000 3.5% 4.1%
Belief in God 66% 78%
Gun Ownership 28.0% 47.1%
Deaths by Firearm, per 100,000 9.5 13.7

One could spend all day searching for correlations among these characteristics; however, a few do stand out more prominently than others.  For example, combining several characteristics, one can state that the Blue States tend to be better educated with higher high school graduation rates, more bachelor degrees and more of the top universities.  Blue States also tend to spend more on their houses (4.6 times their median income) versus Red States who spend only 3.0 times their income on a home.  True, this could be due to the fact that there is more available land in the Red States presumably making lots cheaper to build on.  However, then isn’t it strange that new home constructions are split about evenly between Blue and Red?  And while the overwhelming numbers of businesses reside in the Blue States, their unemployment rate is higher than in the Red States.  However, the poverty rate and obesity rate is higher in Red States.  There is also a strange dichotomy in the Red States.  While being comprised of the “Bible Belt,” they yet have lower marriage rates, higher divorce rates, higher gun ownership and more deaths caused by firearms.  What would God think of that combination?

Blue State Propaganda

Politically, it is also a mixed bag.  When polled, Americans consider the economy to be the overriding theme of this presidential election season.  To borrow a phrase from Bill Clinton’s White House, “It’s the economy, stupid.”  But while you would think the states with the highest unemployment would lean toward Mitt Romney and his job creating (albeit mathematically mystical) juggernaut, it is quite the opposite.  Is this a case of mass delusion or a schadenfreude miasma?  Similarly, if Barack Obama is the embodiment of a socialistic welfare state, why then would the region with the highest household income, the most businesses and a lower poverty rate bother to look at him? Were they all working late and missed his soporific first debate?

Red State Propaganda

It is in these mysteries that this election is wrapped.  God bless the RED, white and BLUE.  Now go vote.

Undecided No More

Image from The New Yorker

My son, a freshman in college, and I were on the phone last night discussing our impressions of the latest town hall debate between President Barack Obama and former governor Mitt Romney.  Given the particularly rancorous tone the debate had, a mirrored reflection of the actual campaign, I commented that I found it hard to believe that there were enough undecided voters in the country to fill the audience, let alone that many in Nassau County; but there they were.

Rabid, robotic sycophants in each party leave no room for the truly undecided voter to express their uncertainty with a candidate lest they be subjected to immediate internment in the opposing camp, suddenly responsible for each plank in a platform in which they are ill-prepared and unwilling to defend.  Are these undecided voters genuinely inquisitive, searching for positions on a myriad of issues or are they the dull, unread and oblivious?  For the sake of the future of the United States, I hope it is the former while concerned it is the later.

The polarization of politics, the fracturing of consensus and absence of debate, the removal of concession as a tool toward progress has paralyzed politics.  A shattered media, where any myopic obsession with one particular issue is rewarded with its own cable channel and a thousand militant websites, encourages the electorate to choose a candidate for their position on a single issue and while ignoring the candidate’s position on every other issue as “somebody else’s problem.” You’re concerned about the economy? The environment be damned.  You’re concerned about healthcare? Jobs be damned. And so on…

Neither candidate has successfully escaped this reality.  In a perfect world, Mitt Romney would be able to express the desire for small business (“the economic engine of the country”) to thrive and grow.  He would be able to encourage the celebration of the individual based on their genius and initiative (not their celebrity quotient), rewarded with the fruits of a capitalistic marketplace or starved by the same; where wealth is seen, not as the unconscionable greed plundered by the mindless “looters” of Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, but celebrated as the moral destination of individual gain.  In this perfect world there would be more Hank Rearden’s and Dagny Taggart’s and fewer Wesley Mouch’s and Jim Taggarts.  Unfortunately, this industrial utopia ignores the choices people make.  Atlas Shrugged spends an exhaustive number of pages explaining that the choice a mother makes to give the last piece of bread to her child is not a sacrifice and not given out of pity, but the rational choice of a rational mind.  In the real world, choices like this are made by individuals on a daily basis with no expectation of societal support in return.  Honor is held internally by these individuals, as they navigate life’s course, carved by the choices they have made and determined to persevere.  There are no children in Atlas Shrugged and no characters ravaged by illness, excepting, of course, that a conscious refusal to think for one’s self is terminal. In reality, there are those whom Fortune has betrayed, felled by disease or events beyond their control for whom that proverbial “governmental safety net” should be axiomatic.

Conversely, President Obama has not been able to effectively convey a perfect world where government involvement in the minds and pocketbooks of citizens is not for the benefit of the lazy takers and looters, but where an “audacity of hope” lifts all boats; where society’s infrastructure is measured in the tons of steel and yards of cement in our roads and bridges and not in the number of governmental agencies handing out food stamps and welfare checks to the unworthy.  He has not been able to sell his opponents on a middle class worthy of the platitudes bestowed upon it by Democrats as the hardworking backbone of America, and not the resource-sponging Pablum vilified by Republicans.  To assume that every citizen is doing their best and ignoring society’s leeches does nothing but invite deserved criticism.    No amount of rhetoric can make up for the picture of the able-bodied young man who has fathered countless children without concern for their future, waiting in line for a government check rather than searching for work, laughing in full belief that the government “owes” him.  Nor has the president escaped the portrait, painted in dazzlingly surreal colors by the “Confiscation Day” fear-mongering NRA, of  him as a soft, yellow, liberal hoplophobe, as opposed to a father and leader legitimately questioning why regular citizens need to own AR-15’s with 100 round drums.

Each side sees only the idealized version of themselves in the mirror and ignores the Dorian Gray painting in the corner while only seeing the Dorian Gray painting of their opponent.

My son suggested that the town hall format, while colloquial and folksy did little to further either candidate’s command of the undecided.  He, himself an accomplished high school debater, suggested that there be two debates scheduled for future presidential campaigns.  Each candidate selects the most partisan member of the media they can find, crafts pointed questions and directs them at their opponent, knowing that their opponent will have the same opportunity in the next round.  In fact, why not remove the commentator altogether?  This would eliminate the bias claims leveled at every commentator by partisan hacks and conspiracy theorists.  Simply have one debate where the Republican candidate asks questions directly to the Democratic candidate and a second debate where the Democratic candidate asks questions directly to the Republican candidate.  These debates should be limited to six hours in length and broadcast on every cable and radio station.  Proof of viewership (of both debates) should be required of every voter on election night, thus ensuring that an informed electorate is a prepared electorate, undecided no more.