Thursday, February 07, 2008

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The Day After

Hillary and Barack played a tough game, and the outcome appears to be a draw. Obama won more states, but Hillary may edge him out in total delegates - still looking for those numbers.

The bad news: race, gender, and religion seem to matter to some Americans (not as much as some feared, but more than most of us wish). Latinos voted overwhelmingly for Hillary, as did white women and "working class" whites. African Americans rallied to Obama, and he did well among independents and white men. Can anyone really be surprised? This is a big, backward country and we still have some growing up to do.

The good news -- our two candidates are both very good, and we would do well with either of them in November.

Consider the plight of the Republicans. Huckabee won a few southern states, based entirely on the Evangelical vote. His campaign is now purely a religion-play - might work in Iran but we're not that bad here yet. Romney fizzled badly - I'm expecting him to drop out, but he might decide to waste a few more millions from his nest egg to continue what is now a deservedly lost cause. McCain is now the inevitable nominee - even as Ruch Limbaugh and Ann Coulter rip him on the right-wing media. The guy is very unpopular with so-called conservatives -- you know, people who like the Bush tax cuts, ANWR drilling, torture, persecution of gays, immigration vigilantes, unrestricted campaign funding, and other things McCain couldn't support. And he is almost certainly their nominee.

This morning, you have to be proud to be an American, hopeful about our future, and damn glad you are not a Republican. We are going to take back our country in November!

Here are Barack Obama's remarks from Chicago last night.


Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Yes We Can

After 9/11, Americans looked to President Bush and hoped for leadership. For a while, we put aside our deep reservations about the man and how he had stolen the presidency with the aid of Republicans on the US Supreme Court. For a while, we were one nation, ready to move as one to respond to the attacks and the threat they had revealed. For a while, Democrats and Republicans put aside their differences -- there was nothing we could not do.

It didn't last.

The President took advantage of the goodwill and solidarity of the American people and pushed hard for his partisan agenda. It was a chance to solidify Republican power, and he and Karl Rove went for it. Meanwhile, Dick Cheney used the opportunity to extend the powers of the president. And while the opportunity presented itself, they made plans to invade Iraq. They split the country deeply, embracing Karl Rove's basic principle of leveraging the president's base, and ignoring the rest of the country. The hardball partisanship stunk, but it worked for Bush -- until Katrina revealed the incompetence of his hackocracy and his Iraq war became a pointless, brutal and costly quagmire.

After 7 years, the stench is overpowering.

Maybe it is no surprise, then, that we find the message of Barack Obama so appealing.

Check this out, and tell me you don't believe we can roll back the crap of the past 7 years and start moving this country forward again. Oh, yes we can!


Monday, February 04, 2008

Almost Perfect

The idea of a perfect season crept into the football conversation a few weeks ago. The Patriots came to East Rutherford to play the last regular season game, and they had not lost a game all year. By the end of that game, they were still unbeaten, but the Giants had shown that they could compete with the vaunted Patriots.

Over the next few weeks, the Giants defeated the Cowboys (who were astonished in defeat) and the Packers. Still, depending when you placed your bet, you could get 12-14 points taking the Giants in the Super Bowl (and of course, you took the Giants and the points - didn't you?)

The story yesterday turned out differently than most people expected, and the Patriots did not achieve their perfect season. 19 - 0 was not to be. I am not at all sympathetic with the New England Patriots -- and not merely due to my lifelong attachment to the Giants. I don't like Bill Belichick, I don't like anyone who thinks he is too good to lose to the Giants (ie, most of the Patriots team) , and I really didn't like Tom Brady's arrogance in ridiculing Plaxico Burress for predicting a 23-17 Giants win (Brady thought it was absurd to suggest the Giants could keep him from scoring 35 - 40 points).

Oh yeah -- I should add that I hate sore losers.

Yesterday, Mr Belichick was the sorest loser I have ever seen. With one second left, he decided he had had enough. Everyone else had to stay for the last play - the field had to be cleared, the players and ref's taking their places till the clock ran to zero - but not the big ego himself, the all-important Mr Belichick. In his surly manner during the post-game interview, Belichick made it clear how disappointed he was, as if some great disaster had fallen unfairly from the sky, some arbitrary act of the gods, rather than a contest in which his team and he had been measured and found wanting.

Three thoughts for Mr Bill:
  • It's only a game, Bill. Grow up.
  • You're not that important, Bill. Walking out when you feel like it is a bit rude to everyone else, and pretty childish. Grow up.
  • Nobody likes a sore loser, Bill. When you lose, and sometimes you will, smile, remind everyone of the great season they had, congratulate your honorable opponents on their victory, and express your eagerness to do it all again next year. 12 year-old's act like you did yesterday, Bill. Grow up.
I salute the Giants defense for an outstanding performance and for making it possible for the Giants to win on only 17 points. That is all the proof anyone should need that the Giants defense is the class of the NFL, and true Giants fans really appreciate the defense. We have had some great defensive teams, and none performed better than this team did yesterday.

I salute Plaxico Burress and David Tyree and all the Giants receivers who fought to get open and made tremendous catches - and of course, Eli Manning - reviled by the fans all year long - who have finally proven that, on any given Sunday, he is the equal of any quarterback in the league. I had my own doubts about Eli, but in the past month, in his competitive spirit and his refusal to give up interceptions, he has reminded me of Phil Simms -- and that is saying a lot.

I will never be a Tom Coughlin fan - the guy always looks lost and aggravated on the sideline. No matter who wins, he always looks to me like a guy who should be somewhere else. Congrats anyway, Tom.

Looking forward to next year. When do we play the almost-perfect Pats again, I wonder?


Evangelicals a Liberal Can Love?

Nicholas Kristoff writes about the liberal leanings of some Evangelicals today, and urges secular liberals to be less scornful of these potential allies in the causes of social justice and saving the planet.

While I agree that open expressions of scorn are probably not polite or politically effective, it is also true that such scorn is entirely deserved, not only for the appalling superstition of these believers but also for the arrogance and belligerence demonstrated by their more numerous right-wing cousins. Even should we agree to set aside the pleasures of ridiculing these people, in the interest of good and worthy causes, let us not forget that even the most "liberal" Evangelicals believe that the rest of us are damned. And most if not all would gladly adopt a government that replaced the Constitution with the Bible - a kind of Western Sharia.

The Evangelical movement is associated with an intrusive and theocratic impulse that is essentially hostile to our traditions, which have emphasized tolerance and a fairly libertarian reluctance to impose too much on the private morals of Americans.

These people feel entitled to impose their religious beliefs on the rest of us - as Mike Chucklebee recently demonstrated with his comments about amending the Constitution to align it more perfectly with an Evangelical take on Scripture. There is such a thing as absolute truth, and they are its keepers.

Evangelical proselytizing in the military has overcome the traditional church-state boundaries, transforming the Air Force Academy into an institution dominated by Evangelical belief and practice where Jews and other non-Evangelicals were harassed and intimidated. In the classrooms of America, these folks want to make sure that kids are taught that the world might only be 6,000 years old, that we were created pretty much as we are today, and that men and dinosaurs lived side-by-side.

I would suggest that it is nonsense to celebrate the Evangelical movement as a political phenomena now that its policy preferences seem to be aligning with those of Democrats. The problem is not only in their policy preferences, but in their anti-American theocratic radicalism. Whether Jim Wallis is for doing something for the poor or not, he is still one of those who thinks it is quite all right to argue public policy questions on the basis of Scripture.

Fundamentally, these people hold beliefs about government that are no different than the beliefs of the mullahs of Iran, or the Taliban. They want to claim America for Jesus, or some such nonsense (substitute Allah for Jesus and you could be in Pakistan). They have misgivings about the equality of women, and are so single-minded about abortion that they willingly gave their political support to a man who launched an unjust war and authorized the torture of prisoners.
They reject the modern sciences of geology and biology, and they would refuse gay couples the dignity of married life. Many of them voted for Bush, believing as we often heard them say, that Bush would bring the Lord into the White House. When Bush nominated Harriet Miers to the Supreme Court, Bush empasized her church affiliation in making the case. Many Evangelicals tell pollsters they are unwilling to vote for Romney because he is a Mormon (and therefore a heretic).

In the past 8 years, we have seen how completely the Evangelicals took over the Republican party, driving even John Danforth to speak out in opposition (and not only to the policies of the religious right - he criticized the role of religion in the party, calling the GOP the "political extension of a religious movement"). If you like Hezbollah, Mr Kristoff, I guess it's no problem for you.

Sure, some Evangelicals are compassionate towards the poor, protective of the environment, and opposed to the torture of prisoners - I'm sure Jesus would be impressed by this virtuous minority, and we should work with them to do good. But the problem of Evangelical political ambition doesn't go away when they take our side of the debate on climate change or poverty.

Progress for America requires that we reject the theocratic tendencies of Evangelicalism and revert to traditional values of church-state separation, of a polite self-restraint and broad tolerance, and of privacy of our religious practices. While we are off saving the planet, let's make sure we also protect our most prized liberties from those who think they alone have the truth.