Friday, November 05, 2004

Computer glitch

These are the kinds of stories that make me paranoid.

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -- An error with an electronic voting system gave President Bush 3,893 extra votes in suburban Columbus, elections officials said.

How many other electronic voting machines might have had similar troubles in Ohio and elsewhere? Could this explain the discrepancy between the exit polls and the final results? Probably not, but it is not reassuring news in such a close election.

What Moral Values would those be?

The new conventional wisdowm is that Bush won re-election on the strength of conservative Christians who said that "moral values" was their number one issue in the campaign. Moral values in this context is simply code for anti-abortion and anti-gay rights.
I'll leave the anti-abortion issue aside for now as it will come up soon enough when Bush starts appointing Supreme Court justices. But the gay rights issue - specifically gay marriage - has to be one of the silliest things on which to base a vote for president.

First off, if a gay couple wants to get married they can do so and there is nothing that the government can do to stop them. That is because "marriage" is done by the church and if they can find a church that will marry them they have every right to do so. The real issue is whether or not the government should recognize these types of marriages as legally binding.
If a religious conservative is opposed to gay marriage they can join a church that refuses to marry gay couples. Beyond that it really should not concern them for it is not any of their business. But that is not good enough for these people. They want to take it a step further and have their church's anti-gay marriage doctrine written into the law so that it is forced on everyone regardless of whether they are members of that particular church or not.

The frustrating thing here is that a majority of people seem willing to allow something called "gay unions" which would grant gay couples similar legal rights as married couples so long as they don't use the term "marriage." What is frustrating is that gays should jump at this opportunity because that is really all they need. As I have said, they can call it what they want once they get the legal rights established. So don't insist that the government use the term marriage because that just seems to rile up the fundamentalist opposition.

What irritates me the most however is this idea that being opposed to gay marriage is somehow upholding traditional moral values. How is that a moral value to tell two people who love one another that they cannot live together in a monagamous relationship? It would seem to me that the conservative position should be to encourage gay marriage as an alternative to gay promiscuity.
Of course, I don't buy into the argument that homosexuality is entirely a matter of choice and thus a sin. I believe that there is a biological element to it which means that (gasp!) God might have had something to do with it. There has always been a certain small percentage of the human population that is gay since the beginning of time. Maybe it is a way of controlling overpopulation in the species. But whatever it is I think this idea that it is a sin is wrongheaded and mistreating gays for something that they have little or no control over is unChristian. I don't care what verse out of the Bible you think forms the basis of an anti-gay doctrine. The Bible is a great book that was in most cases written by people who were inspired by God, but it is not infallible. If you believe that it is then explain to me how we can have a passage in Leviticus that advises men who suspect their wives of infidelity to force them to eat poison - if they become ill and die they were innocent, if they survive then they were guilty and the man can then divorce them.

My moral values are largely based on the Bible, particularly the New Testatment and the teachings of Christ. But they don't include bashing gays and judging people as sinners based on who they fall in love with.

The Obstructionist Party

So the Democrats are down 55-45 in the new Senate (44 plus Independent James Jeffords). Does that mean they will be marginalized and ineffective? Not at all. In fact that is a pretty good sized minority by historical standards and it is more than enough to block the really bad legislation that will be cropping up.
For lessons in being obstructionist, the Democrats need only look to the other side of the aisle at the party that was in the minority for years and made obstructionism into a fine art. Why one of the greatest obstructionists of our time was Republican Jesse Helms or Sen. No, as he was called.
From the time the Senate was expanded to 100 members in 1959 the Republicans were in the minority for more than 20 years, usually with far fewer numbers than what the Democrats have now.

So don't be surprised when Bush fails to get his grandiose plans to screw-up, I mean reform, the tax code and Social Security through Congress. Then again, I expect to see initiatives in these areas about the same time that Bush gets that manned mission to Mars off the ground.

Thursday, November 04, 2004

Nudge, nudge, wink, wink. Know what I mean?

In his victory speech the other day President Bush made some conciliatory remarks about the need to reach out to those who had voted for his opponent and to bring the country together. This is all fine and good, but he then went on to describe his second term plans in language that was clearly meant to signal to his supporters that everything is full steam ahead for their radical right agenda. At least, that is how I heard it.
Here is the part of the speech that caught my attention with my initial reactions in parenthesis:

"Because we have done the hard work, we are entering a season of hope. We'll
continue our economic progress. (Cough! Cough!) We'll reform our outdated
tax code. (More tax cuts for the rich!!) We'll strengthen the Social
Security for the next generation. (Privatization! Get ready to roll the dice
on your retirement income.) We'll make public schools all they can be.
(Standardized test factories for poor kids who can't afford to go to real
schools!) And we will uphold our deepest values of family and faith." (Outlaw
abortion! Bash Gays! Teach creationism in the schools!)

Okay, so maybe I wasn't in the most conciliatory mood when I was listening to the speech. But I don't believe for a second that Bush is seriously reaching out to anyone who is not willing to walk lockstep with him on every issue. He didn't do it when he was the popular vote loser, so why would he start now?

Wednesday, November 03, 2004

Post-election thoughts

Just a few thoughts on this miserably disappointing election.

First, surely by now everyone can agree that we should get rid of the antiquated electoral college. Without the electoral college there would have been no question that Bush won the election based on the popular vote. John Kerry has decided to concede, but if he had chosen instead to act like Bush did in 2000 he could have tied up the election for weeks with lawsuits and recount challenges in a handful of states.

As for the possibility of provisional ballots or a recount changing the outcome in Ohio or elsewhere, I’m doubtful that could happen. But even if it did I think Kerry would have had trouble establishing a legitimate claim to the presidency while being down in the popular vote. I would indeed be hypocritical if I were to think otherwise after making such an issue of Bush’s half-million popular vote loss in 2000. On the other hand, any Republican who so much as makes a peep about popular vote victories under such circumstances would be equally hypocritical.

I am not upset with John Kerry. I feel that he ran as good of a campaign as anybody could have. He came within a hair’s breadth of winning the election. But the popular vote totals was the biggest blow. I’m still flabbergasted that a bare majority of American voters think George W. Bush is the best person to lead the country, but there you have it.
Perhaps the only bright spot for Democrats in this election is that they won’t have to clean up the mess that Bush has made during the past four years. Unfortunately, it also means that the mess will just get bigger. The question remains as to how big of a mess the American people will tolerate before the pendulum finally starts to swing back the other direction.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

My voting experience

I cast my vote this morning and it wasn’t as bad as I had feared. The thought of standing in line for up to two hours with a fidgety 1-year-old had dissuaded my wife and I from trying to early vote last Friday when the lines were wrapped around the buildings. But this morning at my regular voting precinct we only had to stand in line for about 15 minutes. We had packed the diaper bag full of toys and an extra bottle just in case but didn’t have to get it out of the car.
I couldn’t find our current voter registration cards so I brought along the old ones which still have our current address. It turned out not to be a problem. There were a few people that had to be turned away because their precinct location had been changed at the last minute, but noone got too upset about it. I was surprised when our across-the-street neighbors turned up just as we were leaving and found out that they are in a different precint that votes at another location. We live on a dead-end street in a new subdivision and we are still divided up like that. Unbelievable.
The new touch-screen voting machines were pretty easy to use. But it is still a little disconcerting to just push a flashing button at the end and have the screen suddenly clear out and say “Thanks for voting.”
Well, it is no big secret who I voted for. Now I am ready for today to be over with. I hate not knowing how it all turns out.
I’ve been through seven presidential elections since I was old enough to be aware of what was going on. The biggest disappointment was in 1988 when I was so emotionally invested in the Dukakis campaign. The most pleasant surprise was 1992 when Clinton won the first time. I don’t even like to think about four years ago. So now we just wait and see....

Monday, November 01, 2004

More Kerry endorsements

I subscribe to two periodicals - The New Yorker, which leans left and The Economist, which leans right.

The New Yorker has never endorsed a presidential candidate before, but this year they are making an exception. They have a long and in-depth explanation for their endorsement of John Kerry which is an excellent read.

The British-based Economist has been mostly supportive of Bush throughout his term and even backed his war in Iraq long after his reasons for invading fell apart like a house of cards. But now they are reluctantly endorsing Kerry calling it a choice between incompetence and incoherence. They got the incompetence part right.

Meanwhile, Kerry has cleaned the floor with Bush in the race for newspaper endorsements winning both the overall count 208 to 169 and the circulation race by 20 million to 14 million.
Kerry has also won the endorsement of 43 papers that backed Bush in 2000, while 16 papers that chose Bush in 2000 have decided to make no endorsement this year. On the flip side, Bush has picked up only seven papers that were for Gore in 2000.

But of course the “liberal media” is going to endorse Kerry, you say. Not so. According to Editor & Publisher which has been compiling these endorsement lists for several decades, the papers have given an overall edge to the Republican candidate in every year except one of Bill Clinton’s races. So having John Kerry win the endorsement race by a 5-3 margin is highly unusual.