The Thoughts and Musings of Tom Allain

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it

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Archive for the ‘Thinking’ Category

The Justice Chronicles, Volume 29: Do We Need to Revisit the Limits of Free Speech in the Age of Twitter?

Friday, August 18th, 2017

We Americans revere few things more than Freedom of Speech. We are told in the First Amendment of our Constitution that “Congress shall make no law …abridging the freedom of speech.”

Alas, it’s a right that’s little understood. It means you cannot be arrested for what you say. But it’s often misinterpreted to mean you can say whatever you want without consequences. Here’s my favorite example: in 2010 the popular radio advice hostess Laura Schlessinger came under criticism for her use of the “N word” on her show. When an African American caller (in an interracial marriage) objected to her use of that word, Laura responded: “If you’re that hypersensitive about color and don’t have a sense of humor, don’t marry out of your race.” You can read about it here. After being criticized for her remarks she appeared on Larry King Live and demanded return of her “first amendment rights.” She believed that freedom of speech protected her from criticism for her words. She didn’t understand that others have the same right to express their opinions, and she was not Constitutionally protected from having her feelings hurt.

But from the beginning we’ve struggled with limits to the rights of free speech. Can you say anything? This debate goes all the way back to President Adam’s infamous Alien and Sedition Acts in 1798 which criminalized criticism of the government.

I have no desire to give an entire history of this debate, but we all look to the 1919 Supreme Court decision of Schneck v. the United States. In his majority decision Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes wrote this: “The most stringent protection of free speech would not protect a man in falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater and causing a panic.”

This make sense. You don’t have the right to speech that directly causes injury to others. But there is also legal precedent that you don’t have the right to prohibit speech that offends you. Many of us remember well the issue of flag burning. In 1989 the Supreme Court decided, in the case of Texas v. Johnson, that burning the American flag is protected speech.

But what about today? If you burn a flag across the street of a VFW hall you’re certainly going to anger the veterans gathered but we can all agree that nobody is in danger. That’s changed.

We’re all still talking about the events last week in Charlottesville but I heard a story that frightens me. The marchers were filmed by many who posted pictures on Twitter, with the hope that the marchers could be called out and recognized for their racist views.

That may be OK with many of us, but it’s not OK with Kyle Quinn. Kyle works for the University of Arkansas and committed the unforgiveable sin of looking like someone who marched in Charlottesville. In an excellent article you can see that someone saw a picture of someone who looked like Kyle and identified him as Kyle (even though Kyle was 900 miles away in Little Rock, Arkansas).

Kyle got a call from someone at the university who verified that he was in Little Rock and suggested that Kyle’s life just got more complicated. He was right.

Soon his Twitter account, email account, etc. blew up. His home address was posted and Kyle and his wife retreated to a friend’s house out of fear for their safety.

I write this because (much like those in the theater when someone shouts “fire”) Twitter, Facebook, and other social media make all of us potential victims of danger. Kyle well knows that a someone with a gun and an agenda (and his home address) may pose exactly the same danger to him as to the theater goers who are stampeded after someone yells fire.

I love freedom of speech as much as anyone. I revel in my ability to disagree with, and even lampoon, politicians I don’t agree with. But I don’t think our founders intended to protect those whose words lead directly to mobs who show up with clubs and torches. And I don’t think they intended to protect the 21st century mobs who traded in clubs and torches for Twitter accounts.

So where do we go from here? Whoever misidentified Kyle made an honest mistake, but hate groups created the environment that made this possible. The march on Charlottesville was organized by a group called Unite the Right.

Previous generations looked on groups like this as reprehensible but protected by the First Amendment. Today we need to look on them as hate groups that can no longer hide behind free speech.

Expertise Needs Our Support

Tuesday, April 18th, 2017

From my earliest memories I’ve recognized truth does not depend on our opinions or desires. Facts are facts, even when they’re inconvenient.

I’ve been blessed to have born into a time and place where knowledge was valued and the smartest people in the room should be heard and respected. Good leaders told the truth and journalists reported factually.

But in the last few decades we’ve seen this model challenged. The 24 Hour News Cycle recognized that they didn’t need their viewers to be informed, but instead they needed their viewers to stay tuned. On March 8, 2014 Malaysian Air Flight 370 disappeared and we still don’t know what happened. In the days and weeks after its disappearance CNN and other news outlets learned that as long as they covered Flight 370 they claimed high ratings. Their ratings plummeted when they left this coverage for other stories. And so they continued to cover Flight 370 long after they had anything to report.

On March 19th, 11 days after the disappearance, CNN reporter Don Lemon suggested that the plane was sucked into a black hole. I don’t think anyone believed this, but after 11 days he was running out of things to talk about.

We see countless more examples, but in the early 21st Century we need to recognize we are consumers who increasingly want to be told what we want to hear more than we want to be told the truth.

And that’s a bad thing. This doesn’t serve us well. We need to hear uncomfortable truths because that’s how we grow and learn.

As I child I was told about Adam & Eve, Noah’s Ark, and other events from the Bible. As an adult I learned that many of these stories were myths. They were true but not factual. But today I’m surrounded by fundamentalists who believe that every animal alive today entered Noah’s Ark in the year 1656 BCE and emerged 40 days later when a dove flew off and returned with an olive branch that spontaneously appeared after all the plants and trees were drowned in the flood. In a Gallup Poll from 2014, 42% of Americans identify as Creationists (ie, the world was created 6,000 years ago over the span of 6 days).

I’ve been thinking about this because a few days ago I heard an excellent essay from Tom Nichols, the author of The Death of Expertise. You can watch him here and I suggest you do.

In case you don’t, let me take some excerpts:

A few years ago a mischievous group of pollsters asked American voters whether they would support bombing the country of Agrabah. As you might expect, Republicans tended to support military action while Democrats were more reluctant. There’s only one problem: Agrabah doesn’t exist. It’s from the animated Disney film Aladdin. Only about half the people surveyed figured this out.

Increasingly…laypeople don’t care about expert views. Instead many Americans have become insufferable know-it-alls, locked in constant conflict with each other, while knowing almost nothing about the subject they are debating.

How did this happen? How is it that people now not only doubt expert advice, but believe themselves to be as smart, or even smarter, than experienced professionals? Parents who refuse to vaccinate a child, for example, aren’t really questioning their doctors. They’re replacing their doctors. They have decided that attending the University of Google, as one anti-vaccine activist put it, is the same as going to medical school.

We need to find our way back from this ego driven wilderness. Historically, all people return to valuing expert views in times of trouble or distress. We’re all willing to argue with our doctors until our fever is out of control. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. But that’s where we’re headed. And unless we start accepting the limitations of our own knowledge, then each of us is failing in our obligation to participate in our democracy as involved, but informed citizens.

Well put Mr. Nichols.

The Election Chronicles, Volume 33: I Alone Can Fix It. Really?

Saturday, July 30th, 2016

This week we are watching the Democratic Convention but I have to confess I still can’t get over last week’s Republican Convention. Frankly it’s something I can’t unsee

But one line from Donald’s speech continues to haunt me. I wrote about this two months ago but Don is simply not a Republican: he is a Fascist.

Don himself made my point last week when he announced that I alone can fix it.

Taking aside the fact that no one alone can fix it, we should all be frightened. In a little over 3 months we will elect a president but Trump apparently believes he will be elected king.

I’ve spoken about this before, but the framers of the Constitution viewed our President as the leader of the Executive Branch, one of the branches of government.

Don does not. He calls on us, the voters, to give him the power to do whatever he wants with the promise that he will protect us from those who wish to harm us.

But in the end, he will harm us the most. Concentrating power in one person never works in the long run. That dictator, sometimes quickly, sometimes slowly, eventually makes decisions that benefits him at the expense of others. Even when the others helped him achieve his power.

If we truly listen to him, Don has spent his campaign telling us who he will benefit: rich, white, men.

He has spoken with contempt on women, Mexicans, Muslims, African Americans, and poor people.

Who has he supported? He has spoken well of Vladimir Putin. He tried to duck question about the Ku Klux Klan’s favorite son David Duke falsely claiming he didn’t know who Duke was.

Our Constitution famously opens with the phrase “We the people of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

In a real sense, a vote for Donald Trump is an abdication of “we the people” for ” you alone can protect us.” He has made it clear that he has no interest in compromise, discussion, or shared leadership.

Vote for him at your own peril.

Reflections on Memorial Day 2016

Monday, May 30th, 2016

Shortly after the end of the Civil War, also called The War Between the States, families began to gather in cemeteries to remember those who died. At first it was called Decoration Day.

By 1868 General John A. Logan (1826-1886) proclaimed May 30th a day to remember those who died in battle. He was the Commander in Chief of the Grand Army of the Republic, an organization of Civil War veterans. It has since been moved to the last Monday in May.

Eventually Decoration Day became Memorial Day and it was made a federal holiday in 1971.

We’ve all heard the phrase “freedom isn’t free” and our history is replete with young men and women who gave their lives for our freedom. We can never know how many and my attempt to dive into the weeds proved fruitless. Suffice it to say that we need to honor all of them.

And so let me begin my soapbox. We find ourselves in an election year and in November many of us will have the opportunity to choose our leaders. And not without reason it’s become fashionable to lament the lack of worthy leaders. But if we allow this to keep us home on election day we disrespect those who we claim to honor today.

In many arenas we are tasked with choosing between less than ideal selections. Our responsibility to those who gave their lives is no less important in 2016 than it was in 1788 or 1860.

Let’s vote people!

I Had a Conversation That Made Me Think: What Would I Say To Me at Twelve Years Old?

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

In the course of my work as a hospice chaplain I have the opportunity to speak with all sorts of people with all sorts of experiences, and of all sorts of ages.

I recently had a chance to speak with a 12 (nearly 13) year old girl whose relative was on hospice. We spoke about the usual things, including the question of what she’ll do when she grows up. She was equal parts hopeful and fearful. I remember well thinking I had to choose a path as a teenager that would inform the rest of my life. But now I know how silly that was.

In my parents’ generation most people worked in the same field (if not with the same employer) for their entire career. In my generation most of us worked in the same or related fields for a good part of our career, even if we had multiple employers. That’s the case with me. I’ve had a few unrelated jobs: I worked at libraries in Woodbridge, Virginia and at Mount Vernon College, and I spent 6 months working for the Salvation Army.

But the bulk of my career has centered on faith. I’ve been a seminarian, Director of Religious Education, Youth Minister, priest, and hospice chaplain. Interestingly enough, I’ve spent the last 18 years as a hospice chaplain, a position that barely existed when I was twelve. As a matter of fact, it was a volunteer position until 1982.

When speaking with this young lady I encouraged her to dream big and recognize that she may well spend a good part of her career in a field that doesn’t even exist now. I graduated from high school in 1978 and none of my classmates found their future in internet startups, only because the internet didn’t exist.

But our conversation got me thinking about what I would say to the 12 year old me if I had the chance. Here’s what I think I would say:

  • Forget about your classmates whose approval you crave. By the time you’re 30 you won’t even remember their names. They are playing the same “please like me” game you’re playing and if they are more successful it won’t translate into anything with meaning beyond high school.
  • You know that teacher who won’t let up on you? The teacher who keeps telling you that you can do something you don’t think you can (or want to) do? That’s a name you’ll remember. This teacher gave you a gift: you’re more than you think you are and you’ll be more than you think you’ll ever be. Say a prayer for him or her.
  • Oh yes, and that girl who doesn’t know you’re crazy about her? Yeah, maybe she’ll be your girlfriend and maybe she won’t. Maybe you’ll be too shy to talk with her or maybe she’ll shoot you down. In any case you’ll find the person for you and you’ll be happy she did the same.

Finally, relax. None of the stuff you worry about will really hurt you. You never saw your greatest gifts and your greatest tragedies coming. And yet you find yourself still here and your greatest tragedies were you best teachers.

And while your greatest tragedies were your best teachers, your greatest gifts were your best celebrations. Maybe it was the day you got married, likely it was the day your children were born, but in any case they were experiences you cannot explain, only experience. And worst of all, you don’t have the vocabulary to fully translate how you’re feeling at that moment.

The Election 2016 Election Chronicles Volume 11: Are We Witnessing the End of the Republican Party?

Thursday, October 22nd, 2015

I’m aware that I’ve just written possibly the most provocative subject line of this blog, but it’s been percolating in my head for a while now. At least give it a read before forming an opinion.

Currently in United States most partisan offices are held by members of the Republican or Democrat parties. Nearly everyone knows that there are minor parties (even if we can’t name them) but the 2 major parties really call the shots. And since it’s been that way for all of our memories, we can easily think that it’s always been that way.

It hasn’t. The GOP was formed in 1854 in opposition to slavery. But it didn’t form out of nothing: it rose from (some of) the ashes of the Whig party which was itself formed in opposition to President Andrew Jackson who they referred to as “King Andrew.” It can be reasonably said that President Jackson was the first President who identified as Democrat.

It’s telling that from the beginning the Whigs had only one purpose: opposition to the Democrats. That said they had some success. Members included Presidents William Henry Harrison, John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, and Millard Fillmore. Influential non Presidents included Daniel Webster, Henry Clay, and Winfield Scott. Oh yes, and a member of the Illinois House of Representatives, Abraham Lincoln.

Slavery was the issue that ultimately doomed them. For 21st Century Democrats like me, it’s hard to imagine this but Democrats of the 1840s and 1850s were united in their support of slavery. Not only did they demand that slavery continue in the South, but that it expand westward as territories in the Midwest and West became states. After Andrew Jackson, Democrat Presidents before the Civil War were James K. Polk from North Carolina, Franklin Pierce from New Hampshire, and James Buchanan from Pennsylvania. And while Pierce and Buchanan were from Northern states, they were pretty feckless. One could make the argument that while they didn’t cause the Civil War, their passivity only delayed it.

As the expansion of slavery continued to divide the nation, the Whig party continued to try to remain the party that opposed the Democrats, regardless of any other issue. That inevitably led to a split between the Whigs who opposed slavery and those who didn’t. Northern Whigs opposed the westward expansion of slavery and southern Whigs didn’t. The divide couldn’t be resolved and eventually the southern Whigs joined the Democrats and the northern Whigs formed a new party that opposed both the Democrats and slavery. They called themselves Republicans.

Since then both parties have changed dramatically. President Lincoln successfully kept us together and paved the way to abolish slavery before being assassinated. And while (male) former slaves were eligible to vote, few were able because of deep-seated discrimination for a hundred years. But most of those who were able to register to vote identified as Republicans. This lasted until the presidency of Franklin Roosevelt who they saw as more progressive on civil rights.

Enter today’s Republican Party. Like their Whig ancestors they unite against only this: the defeat of the Democrats. Nothing else matters.

So here’s their problem: there are factions that oppose each other in how they plan to govern and the only uniting factor (defeating the Democrats) won’t give them a path to victory. So let me give a few examples:

  • The Current Race for the Republican Nomination is a mess: For several election cycles the field of candidates has been full, but this time (and at this time) the front runners are Ben Carson and Donald Trump. They are united in this: neither has any political experience. Furthermore, both used to be Democrats. You can read about this here but Ben Carson was a Democrat until November 2014. Donald Trump, in a CNN interview three months ago, admitted he identified as a Democrat in 2004. His “party trail” is more complicated but you can read more about it here. In 1987 he registered as a Republican. In 1999 he changed to the Independence Party. In 2001 he changed to the Democrats. In 2009 he (again) registered as a Republican. Finally, in 2012 he declined to register as a member of any party. In other words, none of the other Republican candidates poll well against two guys who only professed their loyalty to the party in the last few years.
  • Their fights are getting more public and public and more ugly: Ronald Reagan famously proclaimed the Eleventh Commandment: Though Shalt Never Speak Ill of Another Republican. Republicans have famously fought in private while Democrats are often described as using a “circular firing squad” in their conflicts. But this is beginning to fall apart. My best, current example focuses on the Benghazi hearings. The Congressional investigation’s Republican leader, Trey Gowdy recently told fellow Republicans to “shut up” after some of them admitted that the Benghazi investigation was nothing more than a political ploy to hurt Hillary Clinton.
  • They can’t seem to agree on a new Speaker of the House. In January, 2011 John Boehner rose to a position he’d sought for years: Speaker of the House of Representatives. Once there he learned that his tenure would be far from easy. Conservative members of his party (often called the Freedom Caucus) signaled early on that they felt no loyalty to Boehner or the House of Representatives. They’ve been nothing short of an ongoing migraine and finally, last month he’d had enough. He announced he was resigning his seat in Congress and his role as Speaker. He endorsed the majority leader, Kevin McCarthy to succeed him and fully expected that to happen. It didn’t. Rep. McCarthy recognized that he didn’t have the support of the Freedom Caucus and he withdrew earlier this month. As I write this Paul Ryan has agreed to run with the hope that the Freedom Caucus will allow him to lead. I doubt they will.
  • Since 1992 the Republican candidate for President has won the popular vote only once. Bill Clinton won in 1992 and 1996. In 2000 George W. Bush won the electoral vote but not the popular vote. In 2008 and 2012 Barack Obama won the popular vote. Only in 2004 did George Bush win the popular vote. Clearly history is not on the Republican side.
  • All the Republican demographics are decreasing. In the 2012 election 88% of Mitt Romney’s voters were white. For much of the last century white voters comprised enough of the voting population that minorities didn’t matter. They do now. Our population from south of our border has exploded. Some of them vote because they have become naturalized citizens, but most vote because they were born here, children of immigrants. There’s an excellent Pew Research Center article entitled: A Deep Dive Into Party Affiliation that was published last April. It identified groups that tilt Republican: Mormons, White Evangelical Protestants, White Southerners, White Men (some college or less), White, and the Silent Generation (those born 1929-1946). Groups that tilt Democrat include Blacks, Asian, Religiously Unaffiliated, Post-Graduate Women, Jewish, Hispanic, and Millenial Generation (those born 1982-1997).

    So what happens from here? Clearly this doesn’t mean that everyone will become Democrat. While I choose to be Democrat I fully understand good and honest people disagree with me on many issues. Perhaps the Republicans will be able to reform themselves into a new party that better reflects the changing values of our nation. Perhaps they will split into different parties: some Republicans don’t care about gay marriage but feel government is too big. Others fear that we are losing our identity as Americans because so many people come from other places with different values and have no trouble with government protecting our food supply or air quality.

    When the Whig party split, some became Democrats and some formed the Republican party. This gave the immediate advantage to the Democrats but Republican Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860, six years after it was formed.

    My point in this blog entry is not to cheer the possible demise of the Republican Party, but just to point out that our nation is changing. Our demographics show that we are becoming a nation that embraces marriage equality, an openness to immigration, and wants health care to be available to all.

    There’s an opportunity to respond to this blog entry. If you do respond I will read it. But please don’t send me a response that claims President Obama is a Muslim terrorist or that Hillary Clinton has killed people. It only makes you look like an idiot.

  • Reflections on Go Set a Watchman

    Tuesday, August 4th, 2015

    I speak for almost everyone of my generation when I praise To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. It was published in 1960, the year I was born. I read it as a high school freshman when it was assigned. I assumed it would be the usual boring nonsense I was supposed to read.

    I was wrong: a few pages into this book was hooked. I still remember the first line: “When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.” The book entered me into a world I only recognized peripherally. Growing up in (Northern) Virgina I knew there was racism in the justice system and that African Americans didn’t enjoy the “innocent until proven guilty” or “guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.” But reading this book I was faced with a black man (Tom Robinson) who was not only clearly innocent but in danger of his life only because he was accused by a white man (Bob Ewell).

    Throughout this book I came to admire Atticus Finch, Tom’s attorney. Atticus was the father of Scout, the book’s narrator. He had no agenda but justice and knew that Tom was innocent. Things didn’t turn out well for Tom but Atticus clearly came out as the hero. From both the book and the 1962 movie (where Atticus was played by Gregory Peck) we all hoped for the courage and moral compass that led Atticus to do what he did.

    We also wished Harper Lee had kept writing. She apparently retired and didn’t write anything else and we felt that loss. A few years ago we learned that she was elderly and no longer able to live independently.

    But we also learned that someone found a manuscript she had written before To Kill a Mockingbird. This started a debate that continues to this day. From what I’ve been able to read, Miss Lee wrote a book (now called Go Set a Watchman) before To Kill a Mockingbird.

    So here’s the problem: Did Miss Lee intend to publish this earlier work? Many of us believe that she submitted Go Tell a Watchman to her publisher only to have the publisher tell her to rework it. She did and the world received To Kill a Mockingbird. Given that she may well have decided to bury Go Set a Watchman. Frankly, I wish she had. Or at least spend part of the last 50 years reworking Go Set a Watchman.

    Maureen Corrigan has an excellent review on National Public Radio and I couldn’t agree more.

    This book is a mess. Most of us who didn’t like it point to the treatment of Atticus Finch. Here is an avowed racist, a man who believes the federal government had no business ordering the desegregation of schools. He was a member of the KKK and is now a member of the racist Citizen’s Council.

    But even that aside the book didn’t work. My spin is that this book is about Scout (now called Jean Louise) who returns to her home some twenty years after To Kill a Mockingbird. Where she once idolized her father she is now horrified by him and his views. Growing up she based her moral compass on his and now finds she can’t, and needs to develop her own moral compass. But this book is sloppy in writing, with several asides that contribute nothing to the story.

    I suspect that Harper Lee never intended this book to be published; if she had she would have rewritten it. She would have made it better. Someone is going to make a great deal of money off this. As for me, I’m glad I borrowed the book and won’t contribute to it.

    Rand Paul: And Now There Are Two

    Thursday, April 9th, 2015

    A few days ago we learned that another Republican is running for President. Rand Paul, a senator from Kentucky announced his candidacy.

    Many of us find this interesting as Rand is more of a Libertarian than a Republican. He is the son of long time Libertarian Ron Paul. Ron ran for President in 2008 and 2012 hoping for the Republican nomination and wasn’t nominated.

    Nobody can deny Rand’s (or Ron’s) libertarian beliefs. Rand has long believed that the government does too much, spends too much, and interferes too much in the lives of ordinary people. And there is popular support for this. If you asked most Americans if the government is too powerful, many would say yes.

    But this is one of those areas where popular support begins to decline as more information enters the scene. Rand denies this but he once claimed that the 1964 Civil Rights Act was just an overreach. You can read an interesting article in the Washington Post.

    I’m paraphrasing this but Senator Paul indicated that while he supports the Civil Rights Act he is troubled by the idea that the government has the right to tell private companies they had to do business with someone if they don’t want to. The interviewer then asked if he thought Woolworth’s (a popular five and dime store that often contained lunch counters that refused to serve blacks in the south) should be able to refuse service to Martin Luther King. The senator responded that he would never patronize a store that discriminated and that racism is a horrible sin. He believes that any business that discriminates would not stay in business long.

    I disagree. In the past few weeks we’ve seen business announce they will not do business with homosexuals and they appear to have at least some support. Much as I don’t like to think about this, I believe there is enough latent racism in this country to allow businesses to discriminate on the basis of race and stay in business.

    But with regard to Senator Paul I am troubled by issues that most people aren’t thinking about. Senator Paul opposes much of the regulatory power held by government agencies. So let’s talk about a few:

    • The Food and Drug Administration: They make sure that the food we eat and the medications we administer are safe. It was founded in 1906, in no small part, after the publication of The Jungle by Upton Sincliar. A true libertarian believes that the government has no right to interfere with your relationship with your butcher or pharmacist. Me, I’m happy to know my food is safe and I’m really taking the medication I think I’m taking.
    • The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation: In the 1930s (the Great Depression) about 9000 banks failed in the United States. Everyone who kept their money in those banks lost it all. The FDIC was founded in 1933. If you keep your money in an FDIC insured bank, your money (up to $250,000) is insured if the bank fails. In turn the bank is required to follow FDIC rules. Without the FDIC you could never deposit your money in a bank and be sure it’s safe.
    • The National Park Service: If you want to purchase Yosemite Valley or Appomattox Court House (where the Civil War ended) and develop condos, what right does the government to tell you that you can’t? And why does the government even own land at all?

    Rand Paul has a rough road ahead: he needs to convince his fellow Libertarians he will remain true to their values while convincing Republicans that he will stand with them on issues that most Libertarians don’t care about (like Marriage Equality).

    Soon I’ll be listing the candidates for President in 2016 on the left side of this page. Stay tuned.

    Ted Cruz Throws His Hat Into the Ring: Let the Campaign Begin

    Monday, March 23rd, 2015

    On November 14, 2016 we will all go to the polls to elect our next president. Nineteenth months before that day we have our first confirmed candidate. Today Ted Cruz announced his candidacy at Liberty University, the college founded in 1971 by Rev. Jerry Falwell.

    Ted is well known by anyone who follows politics. He is currently the junior Senator from Texas. His conservative credentials are legendary: he wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act and abolish the Internal Revenue Service. He argues against same sex marriage and ending the embargo with Cuba. Among Christian conservatives (who largely populate Liberty University) he brings strong credentials.

    But he also brings some challenges. First and foremost his popularity is an inch wide and a mile deep. Those who like Ted Cruz like him a lot. But while they may be wealthy, there aren’t many of them. I’m sure this troubles them, but every voter in this country gets the same number of votes: 1. The wealthy Christians in this country may be able to generously fund his campaign but can only vote for him once.

    The irony of this keeps me warm at night but there’s no way around this: Ted wasn’t born in the United States. I wrote about this in a previous post. In 2008 there was (and still is) a vocal and stupid minority that claims President Obama isn’t a legitimate president because he was born in Kenya. Nobody questioned that his mother was born in Kansas but the “fact” that he was born in Kenya prevents him from being our president.

    You have to know where I’m going with this: how can the birthers claim that Barack Obama can’t be a legitimate president because they allege he was born in Kenya, and yet support Ted Cruz when everyone knows he was born in Canada?

    In any case, the 2016 campaign has begun. In years past I’ve listed presidential candidates on the left side of this page. I’ve attempted (at great sacrifice) to list everyone who is running for president, not just the major candidates. I’ll do this again for the 2016 campaign but not yet. Ted is the only major candidate to announce, and I’ll wait for a larger field to announce.

    Keep looking for more candidates. And let’s celebrate that we live in a country that allows us to choose our leaders.

    It’s Been a Few Days and I’m Feeling a Little Better

    Friday, November 7th, 2014

    On Tuesday night I stopped blogging at 8PM, mostly because all the news coverage was all about the stunning Republican landslide. The idea of Republican control of the Senate, even without the 60 vote filibuster proof majority, troubles me.

    It’s been a few days and I’m starting to feel a little more hope. While things on the national level didn’t go as well as I’d hoped, things in California generally went well. We re-elected California Governor Jerry Brown for a 4th term. By all accounts he’s done a remarkable job of reversing the downward slide we experienced from Arnold Schwarzenegger and he was able to win re-election with little campaigning.

    Two years ago Scott Peters narrowly unseated incumbent Brian Bilbray. The race was so close that it took 10 days after the election to be sure Scott won. A congressman faces his toughest re-election after his first term and this was no exception. From Scott’s first day on the job Carl DeMaio, a former city council member, announced his intention to run for Scot’s seat in 2014. The race was neck and neck and on election night Carl was winning the counted votes by 752. On Wednesday night it was reversed and Scott was ahead by 861 votes. At this point all the votes cast on election day and most of the mail in votes had been counted; all that was left were the mail in votes that were dropped off on election day and provisional ballots.

    Frankly this time last night I was pretty optimistic. Most mail in ballots skew Republican and were mailed in early. I’m not sure I’m proud of this but most people who wait until the last minute vote Democrat. I also believe that most provisional ballots would skew Democrat.

    In any case I was pretty anxious waiting for the results. I was hoping that Scott’s momentum would continue and afraid it would reverse. The results were so good I had to check a few places to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. Scott’s lead went from 861 votes to 4,491 with somewhere between 10,000 and 15,000 votes left to count.

    In my mind this finishes the election. For the sake of simplicity I’ve rounded the number up from 4,491 to 4,500. If there are 15,000 ballots left to count, Carl would have to win 9,750 of them. If there are 10,000 ballots left to count, Carl would have to win 7,250 of them. Either way it’s a hard hill to climb.

    On the Republican side I’m impressed that Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham beat back challenges from the tea party (I refuse to link or capitalize). I’m hoping that will make moderate Republicans more willing (or less fearful) to actually work with President Obama.

    Finally, I read an excellent column by David Broder who speaks eloquently about the reality that Republican demographics are diminishing. Almost nobody who has recently become an American citizen or has recently become old enough to vote thinks their future lies with the Republican party. I think David is right and I’m happy to think so.