Election Day is Over — What Now?

I’ve been dreading November 6 for a long time, so I’m terribly glad it’s past now! But the sharp division in our country is not over. Approximately half of the electorate is unhappy with the way the election turned out. Many races were very close, and when I went to bed at 3:00 this morning, states like Florida were still in contention.

One reason I dreaded election day was partly because I didn’t know whether my candidates and party would win. I haven’t made any secret about the fact that I am a Democrat. As such, I’m pleased that President Obama has won a second term, that Elizabeth Warren, Tammy Baldwin, Claire McCaskill,  and Tammy Duckworth won their Senate seats, and that we have retained the majority in the Senate, even though the House is still Republican.

However, even though many of my candidates won, the government is more divided than ever. According to Yahoo! News, moderates were defeated in favor of more extreme viewpoints. In several cases, moderate Republicans lost in the primaries to extremist Republicans, and this helped their Democratic challengers to win.

Why is our country so divided? The outline of red and blue states was similar to recent elections: blue in the Northeast, upper Midwest, and West Coast, with red in the Plains states and the South. Urban areas were more likely to go Democratic, which is also usual. And anyone who thinks race and cultural background played no part must not have seen the crowds I saw at Romney & Obama headquarters. The Romney supporters were predominately white, and Obama supporters included many more non-whites (African-American, Hispanic, and others).

Please note — I am not trying to imply bigotry on the part of the candidates or their supporters; I am merely stating an observation which, I believe, reflects the fact that the two candidates appealed to different groups.

Obama had a 12% advantage with women, especially single women. This does not surprise me considering the anti-woman bias of some of the Republican candidates. His supporters also tended to be LGBT, youth, and first-time voters, (according to exit polls).

Why so many extreme candidates on both sides? I recently read and reported on the book One Way Forward by Lawrence Lessig on the political blog Citizens for Truth, which I administrate. Lessig discusses the polarization of the country in recent years, and points out that extreme candidates have an easier time raising money because their positions are clearer than moderates, who may seem wishy-washy.

Lessig calls this polarization the “business model of hate.” Today’s media outlets, including television, radio, and Internet, focus on “niche marketing.”

“We watch what we agree with. We surf to sites we agree with. And while opposing ideas are just a click away, most of us never click.”

This is why media is generally biased in one way or another. Its goal is to make a profit, and partisanship increases profits. The “business model of hate” is good for business.

In my experience, hatred is often related to fear. What are we so afraid of? Women who voted for Obama may have been afraid of losing control over their own bodies. Whites who voted for Romney may fear the increasing population of non-whites which is changing the face of American culture. Similarly, religion can be the basis of fear — I have seen “scare” emails claiming Obama is a Muslim, and I’ve read similar ones about Romney’s Mormonism.

It seems likely that the gridlock in Congress will continue due to the extreme positions and stubbornness on both sides. Some might say this is good, because the less the federal government does, the better. I don’t agree with that (which is one reason I’m a Democrat!). I wish that we could focus on doing what is best for the people of the country instead of ideology. I was impressed to see the cooperation between Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey and President Obama, but saddened when Christie was pounded by criticisms from the Right. What did they expect him to do — refuse federal help, tell Obama to buzz off, let the people suffer? I don’t get this at all.

If you can illuminate me about this mystery, please leave a comment. I would like to understand.



Getting Money Out of Politics (U.S.)

I belong to a political blog, Citizens for Truth, and I would like to invite my readers to check it out.

The purpose of the Citizens for Truth blog is to focus on the effects of money in politics, educate others about it, and keep the issue at the forefront of people’s minds even after this year’s election.  We cannot solve any of the big issues that our country faces without first dealing with the issue of money in politics.  Money in politics corrupts our democracy, influences our elections, and controls what gets done in Washington.  This excessive and unfair influence has been present for a long time, but has been exacerbated in recent years by the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and other court rulings.

Getting money out of politics is not a partisan issue, since corruption does not confine itself to one party. Making a change will be difficult because many of our elected officials at both the state and federal levels benefit from the status quo, and therefore they have no incentive to correct this problem.  We must persuade them to create laws for publicly funded elections or vote them out of office.  In order to do that, we must get a majority of Americans on board so that they are involved in the process.  This is the only way to reclaim our democracy.

Religious Freedom and Tolerance: Do we have it?

Recently I posted about a Pew Research study which reported on government restrictions and social hostility regarding religion. The study found that, in the United States, both measures of religious restriction increased from 2009 to 2010, and that the increase was not against only one religion but several, including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, and Sikhism (read the post here).

Today I read an article on the blog Mystic Politics which addresses “ceremonial deism” in our country. The writer discusses 4 ways in which Christianity (or at least, a belief in God) is proclaimed by the government:
1. Our motto on money: “In God we trust”
2. Prayer in public schools — not private prayer, not a moment of silence, but actual prayers.
3. “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance
4. Prayers at the beginning of public meetings.

Let’s try a “thought experiment.” Suppose you lived in an Islamic country. The money says “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is his prophet.” At school your children hear prayers directed toward Mecca at least 3 times during the school day. They indicate their love of the country by saying a pledge which includes the words “under Allah.” Finally, every meeting of government or public institutions, from the national level all the way down to your child’s graduation, begins and ends with Islamic prayer.

If you are anything except Muslim, how would this make you feel? Like an outsider? Unaccepted by the community? Annoyed that you have to participate in something against your religion? Angry even? Be honest!

“But wait,” says the other side, “it’s okay for the U.S. to be this way because we were founded to be a Christian nation!”

No, we were not. It is a fact that most of our Founding Fathers were Christians, but not all. Continue reading

Restrictions on Religious Practice Increasing in U.S.

The Pew Research Center, as part of its report on global religious restrictions, states that restrictions on practice of religion in the U.S. increased in 2009 and 2010. This change was not confined to one religious group; it included Christians, Jews, Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus, as well as others.

Pew Research uses two methods to determine a country’s score on restrictions to religious practice. The first, the Government Restrictions Index (GRI), addresses court cases, legislation, and other government actions that reduce the ability of individuals to follow their religious beliefs. The U.S. GRI score rose from 1.6 (low) in mid-2009 to 2.7 (moderate) in mid-2010.

The second method, the Social Hostilities Index (SHI), is based on non-government actions by individuals or groups that are motivated by religious prejudice. Religion-related terrorism, as in the attack by U.S. Army Major Nidal Hasan at Fort Hood in Texas, is an example of religion-based hostility. The U.S. score on the SHI rose from 2.0 as of mid-2009 (a low-moderate score) to 3.4 as of mid-2010 (a high-moderate score).

This report only underscores the obvious increase in religious prejudice, stereotyping, and hatred that has occurred in the last five years. Not only is restriction on religion increasing, but the rate of increase is increasing.

Given the fact that the United States was founded from a desire for religious freedom, it is ironic that we are moving backwards rather than forward.

Star Trek: TOS Vulcan symbol

The Best New(s) Show Ever

I’ve just been introduced to HBO’s new series, The Newsroom, which began airing on June 24th. I don’t get HBO, so I haven’t watched it on TV, only clips on the Internet. But it seems to be off to a very painful, but honest, start. Click here to watch a video of the first scene in the series.

I wish what he says about America today was not true, but I strongly believe that it is. Admitting there is a problem is the first step. Some people believe that anyone who talks about our country’s shortcomings is not “patriotic”, and “doesn’t love our country.” That’s is completely illogical. Are your friends perfect? Do you have to believe they are perfect in order to be friends with them? What about your spouse, parents, children?

After the admission that the U.S. has problems, the BS really hits the fan. We are so divided right now that it is almost inevitable that Republicans will blame the Democrats, Democrats blame the Tea Party, Libertarians blame the government — all of it — and the religious right blames Madalyn Murray O’Hair and her band of atheists (plus the ACLU).

There are two reasons why this blame game is worse than useless: one, the problems in our country are very complex and have developed for a long time now — during Republican and Democratic presidencies, conservative and liberal Supreme Courts, and a variety of different culture wars. Blaming a single group is, at best, a gross simplification, and at worst, it demonizes that group.

The second reason we should stop placing blame is that it doesn’t help. In fact, it makes the situation much worse. Why would one party want to cooperate with another if they are calling each other names, vilifying each other, and escalating the conflict until friends, coworkers, and families are torn apart by hatred? I don’t know about you, but I have no desire to work with someone who calls me stupid, ignorant, lazy, weak, or other emotion-laden adjectives, even if –or especially if!– they are somewhat true.

I like to be treated like an adult human being even when I am acting childish, because getting that treatment and respect makes me feel more like an adult human and I’m therefore more likely to act adult and human. On the other hand, I do need to be called on the carpet for my childish behavior — but with respect.

I’ve wandered far from my original topic, which was the new HBO show, but one thing just led to another. Be sure to check out the video.

National Women’s Equality Day

Today is August 26 , 2012
National Women’s Equality Day
The 92nd Anniversary of the Passage of the 19th Amendment
Women’s Right to Vote in the United States
August 26, 1920
Countdown to The 100th Anniversary
August 26, 1920-August 26, 2020
A Brief History of Women’s Rights

Under the common law of England, an unmarried woman could own property, make a contract, or sue and be sued. But a married woman, defined as being one with her husband, gave up her name, and virtually all her property came under her husband’s control.

During the early history of the United States, a man virtually owned his wife and children as he did his material possessions. Some communities, however, modified the common law to allow women to act as lawyers in the courts, to sue for property, and to own property in their own names if their husbands agreed. 

Equity law, which developed in England, emphasized the principle of equal rights rather than tradition. Equity law had a liberalizing effect upon the legal rights of women in the United States. For instance, a woman could sue her husband. Mississippi in 1839, followed by New York in 1848 and Massachusetts in 1854, passed laws allowing married women to own property separate from their husbands. In divorce law, however, generally the divorced husband kept legal control of both children and property.

During the 1960s several federal laws improving the economic status of women were passed. The Equal Pay Act of 1963 required equal wages for men and women doing equal work. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibited discrimination against women by any company with 25 or more employees. A Presidential Executive Order in 1967 prohibited bias against women in hiring by federal government contractors.

Many retail stores would not issue independent credit cards to married women. Divorced or single women often found it difficult to obtain credit to purchase a house or a car.

Crime and punishment were unequal. A woman who shot and killed her husband would be accused of homicide, but the shooting of a wife by her husband could be termed a “passion shooting.”Only in 1968… did the Pennsylvania courts void a state law which required that any woman convicted of a felony be sentenced to the maximum punishment prescribed by law. Often women prostitutes were prosecuted although their male customers were allowed to go free. 
Before becoming a Supreme Court justice, Ruth Bader Ginsburg was leader of the Women’s Rights Project.  She argued several important women’s rights issues in front of the Supreme Court. These included the landmark case Reed v. Reed (1971), which extended the protections of the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment to women for the first time.

And in the entertainment world…. click the picture to read about TV’s groundbreaking women.

Sick to Death of Politics… EDITED

… yet, like an addict, I keep coming back for more. ;-)

Wednesday a small group of us, about 8, went to visit the local office of our Senator, John Cornyn. It was similar to the visit we made in June to our local Congressman (I thought I had blogged about it, but apparently not).

In both cases, we delivered a petition requesting a constitutional amendment to disallow the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling, which has exacerbated the problem of money in politics to the point that billionaires like Harold Simmons can personally bankroll a given politician’s campaign (he backed Newt Gingrich before Newt dropped out of the race). [my mistake… Simmons supports Romney, not Perry]

You can bet that if Romney wins the election, he will pay very close attention to Mr. Simmons’ views, in the same way that Rick Perry (another Simmons beneficiary) listened when Simmons wanted to build a hazardous waste dump in West Texas.

Besides delivering the petition, many of us wrote statements giving our opinions and explaining how money has influenced public policy on particular issues. Mine was on privatization of prisons.

The Senator’s staff member had allocated us 1 hour, but he ended up letting us stay almost 30 extra minutes, and everyone appreciated that. (I was only present for the first half, then my social anxiety got the better of me. Darn.)

We have started a blog and I am the “webmaster” which means I post what people write. I will be busy for awhile posting everyone’s statements. If perchance you are not as sick of U.S. politics as most people, including me, are, feel free to check out citizensfortruth.wordpress.com.

Is Altruism Immoral?

With Paul Ryan now Mitt Romney’s running mate, many people are busily trying to discover what Ryan is all about. If you follow the news, you know about Ryan’s budget plan. But what is his basic philosophy? As it turns out, he has expressed his admiration for a writer named Ayn Rand.

According to this video, which contains an interview of Ayn Rand (as well as several politicians praising her and her philosophy), Rand believed that altruism is immoral if it is placed above selfishness (see her book, The Virtue of Selfishness, and other writings). Rand preached that selfishness must be the basis of capitalism (“rational self-interest”), and scorned any belief system or social institution that was altruistic, including churches. She was an atheist who admits her “disdain” for churches in the video.

A number of Republicans, including Paul Ryan, Ron Paul, Rand Paul , Sean Hannity, and Justice Clarence Thomas, have cited Rand as their philosophical teacher and guide. Their statements are on record in the above video. Of course, some have recently repudiated Rand, especially her atheism. But is the repudiation a real change in viewpoint, or is political expediency?

I believe that each person is responsible for themselves and must look after themselves first. However, I don’t believe that I should put my needs above the needs of others to the extent that I am willing to step on other people to get what I need and want, which seems to be what Rand is advocating. I don’t see altruism — defined by Rand as living for the sake of others — as immoral. I believe that most things are best in moderation and the same is true for altruism and Rand’s objectivism or egoism.

Altruism and objectivism/egoism are opposites, according to Rand. I believe that if these opposing concepts are kept in balance, both the individual and the community will benefit. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as your self.” That one profound instruction tells us that we should love ourselves (contrary to what some churches teach), but that self-love must be balanced by other-love, which Jesus illustrated in the parable of the Good Samaritan.

If you’d like to read one person’s story of how Ayn Rand’s philosophy “ruined” her childhood, click here.

Reblog — Same Sex Marriage

Anita S:

Yesterday I started thinking about writing a post on this subject, with statistics and so forth, but since it has already been done so well by the artistry of the bipolar brain, I have chosen to reblog instead.

Originally posted on theartistryofthebipolarbrain:

100 is a pretty important number.  Without it, we couldn’t do percentage statistics.  And we all know how we like those statistics.  [Okay, I’ll admit that I’m a little weird.]

We base so much information in our everyday lives on this number and others.  Right now, though, I want to talk about some other numbers.


That is the number of years my brother and his partner have been together. 


The number of times Elizabeth Taylor (RIP) married.


Number of marriage licenses granted in Clark County, NV (home of Las Vegas).  See here.


Number of days Kim Kardashian was married before petitioning for divorce (she’s still legally married).


The number of federal benefits and responsibilities surrounding marriage.  See here.

The number of invitations to my brother’s wedding I will be receiving.  [FYI, I am not in any way implying he and his partner are wanting…

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