Friday, May 30, 2008

LibraryThing: "The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling"

I have updated my LibraryThing catalog with a review of The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling [Moneypenny Diaries #3] by Kate Westbrook (I actually posted my review a few days ago and forgot to mention it here. Oops.)

Anyway, as I mentioned in my last LibraryThing post, I've now moved on to the new James Bond novel Devil May Care by Sebastian Faulkes. This is a very special book that I've been looking forward to for some time (and my wife and kids haven't seen much of me since I started reading it late Tuesday night). James Bond's creator, Ian Fleming, died in 1964. The last novel that he "finished" was The Man With the Golden Gun, widely considered to be the worst novel in the series. I put "finished" in quotations because there is some speculation that the book was actually finished (or at least polished) by another writer (or writers) following Fleming's death and Bond fans have often wondered how the book might have changed had Fleming had a chance to work through a second draft before publication.

Anyway, following Fleming's death, there have been three (well, actually five or six, depending on how you count) continuation authors plus a prequel author. Kingsley Amis (writing as Robert Markham) wrote Colonel Sun the late 1960s. Then nothing more was written about Bond (at least not officially or literary; John Pearson wrote The Authorized Biography of James Bond in the 1970s [it has some really interesting ideas mixed in with some dreadfully bad concepts] and Christopher Wood wrote novelizations for The Spy Who Loved Me and Moonraker) until 1981 when John Gardner took over the helm as the James Bond author. Gardner wrote 14 novels (plus 2 novelizations). Then, Raymond Benson, author of the excellent (and hard to find) James Bond Bedside Companion, took over and wrote 6 more novels, 3 short stories, and 3 more novelizations). Gardner and Benson essentially ignored the 15+ year gap between Fleming's death (and The Man With the Golden Gun) and Gardner's first novel License Renewed (published in 1981). But, with the exception of Colonel Sun (a sadly overlooked and underrated novel), the James Bond of the 1950s and 1960s was not seen again following Fleming's death. Until now.

Several years ago, to commemorate the centennial of Fleming's birth, his literary executors decided to have a "literary" author write a Bond continuation story. They chose Sebastian Faulkes. The reason that I'm so excited about Devil May Care is that it picks up Bond's story following the events of The Man With the Golden Gun. As it begins, Faulkes' Bond is still recovering from the events of The Man With the Golden Gun and, by necessary implication, the wider series of events that overshadowed the final few Fleming novels (the death of Bond's wife in On Her Majesty's Secret Service leading to Bond's final showdown with Blofeld in You Only Live Twice and Bond's eventual capture and brainwashing by the Soviets).

Don't get me wrong, I was a huge fan of both Gardner and Benson (although I must say that Benson did a much better job of both capturing the essence of Bond's character and of "name dropping" people and places of interest to Bond fans, not to mention trying to tie up many loose ends that Fleming left behind). Similarly, I have been thoroughly enjoying Charlie Higson's Young Bond series (4 novels so far, with the 5th and final book due this fall) following the exploits of a teenage James Bond in the 1930s (and where we are beginning to see glimmers of how this teenager became the cold, efficient spy) and Samantha Weinberg's (writing as Kate Westbrook) Moneypenny Diaries series. But the character that I have the most affinity and attachment to is that written by Ian Fleming. Thus, I have been very, very eagerly looking forward to returning to the James Bond of the 1960s in Devil May Care.

I'm sure that most people who have seen one or more of the James Bond films have never read one of Fleming's novels. Do yourself a favor and give one a try (start at the beginning with Casino Royale); after all, Fleming's novels can, in many ways, be seen as the precursor to the modern thriller. Moreover, you may be surprised at how different the literary Bond is from the movie character (at least until Daniel's Craig's terrific performance in Casino Royale).

So, forgive me if I don't have much to say about politics or world events for a few more days. 007's license to kill has been renewed and I'm along for the ride.


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Friday, May 23, 2008

Organized Bigotry Ready for the Next Round (update)

Several days ago, I blogged about the fact that organized bigotry, in the form of gay rights opponents advocating for a Constitutional amendment to prohibit gay marriage, were ready to start spewing their drivel again. Well, unfortunately, I was right. Today's The Indianapolis Star contains a featured editorial from P. Eric Turner entitled "Let's protect the will of the people in marriage debate". As expected, Turner makes many of the arguments that I briefly addressed in my previous post.

A few things, however, are worth discussing. First, I found it somewhat curious that print edition of The Indianapolis Star identifies Turner as the assistant Republican leader in the Indiana House of Representatives while the online version of his essay omits that identifying information. Knowing that Turner is an elected official with a fair amount of power is, I think, important to know when reading his opinion; after all, he is not just a man in the street offering his proverbial two cents, but, rather, an elected legislator who has the power to introduce and vote upon legislation.

Second, I find it troubling that The Indianapolis Star would publish this essay in the first place, in part because of the allegation of malice that Turner ascribes to the California Supreme Court and in part because of the lack of a counterpoint essay offered for the sake of balance. I believe that when it comes to issues as divisive and charged as this one, a newspaper owes a duty of balance to its readers, especially to those readers who may read the words of an elected official and not have a sound understanding of the nuances of the issue or of the opposing position.

I also want to address several of the points that Turner makes in his essay. First, let's consider Turner's opening salvo: "We should be worried when the wishes of the electorate are willingly -- maybe even maliciously -- tossed aside by activist judges." Think, for a moment, about what Turner is really alleging. The California Supreme Court (the Chief Justice of which is, by the way, a Republican), found that a referendum adopted by California's voters impermissibly violated the California Constitution's guaranty of equal protection. In other words, the Court found that the people of California could not ignore their own Constitution and vote to discriminate against a class of citizens. Yet in Turner's bigoted worldview, the California Supreme Court acted "maliciously" when it decided to uphold rights protected by the Constitution. I contend that, if malice is being exhibited, it comes from those who don't believe that all people are entitled to live their lives without fear of discrimination and with all of the rights and privileges granted to their fellow citizens. I also think that it's malicious to intentionally mislead those who may not have a firm understanding of how our legislative and judicial systems work together. Apparently, Turner forgot his social studies lessons about checks and balances between the branches of government.

Turner then offers the standard right-wing diatribe against "activist judges" and proclaims: "California's justices decided to make legal what the people of California decided was counterfeit. The court stepped beyond its judicial role and legislated by fiat, making law rather than interpreting it." Once again, as I've noted several times in the past, the role of the judiciary is to do precisely what California's Supreme Court did: To examine whether a particular law is constitutional or not. When a court examines a law and compares that law to the protections granted in a constitution, that court is acting as it is intended to do. The California Supreme Court did not "legislate[] by fiat"; rather, the Court told Californians that they can't adopt discriminatory laws that contravene the express protections found in the State's Constitution.

Turner also, somewhat bizarrely, notes that "there are plenty of reasons to cite Judeo-Christian tradition in defending marriage and limiting its availability". First, not all of our laws owe their derivation solely to Judeo-Christian tradition (and we certainly ignore that tradition in many, many ways, not the least of which is the long-established right of citizens to ignore the Ten Commandments by believing in or worshipping any god of their choosing [or no god at all]). Thus, to suggest that all of our laws with regard to marriage must be somehow grounded in religious principles not shared by all citizens is both wrong and insulting (and doesn't Judeo-Christian tradition have a history of polygamy, one of the perceived evils that Turner claims will be an end result of allowing gay marriage?).

More importantly, what precisely does Turner mean when he talks about "limiting" the availability of marriage? Other than gays, who else shouldn't be allowed to marry? Interracial couples? After all, it took "activist judges" to overturn state laws that banned interracial marriages several decades ago. Perhaps Turner would prohibit divorcees from remarrying (after all, in his essay, he specifically notes that "marriage means one woman and one man uniting for one lifetime" [emphasis added]. Would the limited availability of marriage be open to infertile couples or to couples who don't intend to have children? What about those who don't come from a Judeo-Christian tradition and have different understandings of what marriage is (and is not)?And, even if these are not the types of limitations that Turner is referring to, why are we even discussing limiting civil rights? I'm curious to know if there are other civil rights that Turner would like to limit? Voting rights, perhaps? Oh, wait. He's already done that with his support for the voter ID law.

Turner also claims that Indiana's statutory prohibition against gay marriage "is based on millennia of accepted standards and has been shown to be reasonable and fair." First, those "accepted standards" are limited to Western Judeo-Christian traditions and may have nothing to do with the "standards" of other cultures that are just as much a part of America as Turner's. Second, as mentioned above, didn't those same "standards" (as described in the Bible) include polygamy? And just where have those standards been "shown to be reasonable and fair". Were they fair to women who were forced into arranged marriages for political gain (a common practice throughout European history)? Were the fair to women who could not get a divorce even when they were being abused by their spouse? Were they fair to women who could not own property or vote or engage in any of a host of activities that were reserved for men? Were they fair to the interracial couples who loved one another but were prevented from marrying because of bigots who wanted to keep the races segregated?

And just in case Turner's rhetoric doesn't sway enough people, he even resorts to a bit of fear-mongering (and note the use of the word "trashed" to describe the action of the California Supreme Court and "perversion" to, implicitly, describe homosexuality):
If Indiana's definition of marriage is trashed by activist judges, what stands in the way of other laws preventing other perversions of accepted Hoosier standards of decency? Once traditional marriage is felled, arguments against polygamy, adult-child marriages or even marriages between blood relatives become bolder.

For now, let me simply suggest that Turner is engaging in the worst type of fear-mongering on the basis of elusive slippery slope arguments. I'll take some time another day to address these sorts of arguments head on and in more detail (polygamy, in particular) and show them for the sham that they are. One thing worth noting is that these very same fears were used to try to keep bans on interracial marriage. Moreover, the ban against adult-child marriages is easy to defend on the simple basis of the fact that, unlike adults, children are not entitled to make certain decisions or to enter into contractual relationships precisely because they are children and, as children, are only entitled to a subset of the constitutional rights available to other citizens. Similarly, the ban on near-relations marrying is easily justified by the societal costs of birth defects that are frequent in these types of marriages. None of these concerns are implicated by gay marriage. And, just because Turner (or his religious tradition) views homosexuality as a "perversion" does not mean that all (or even a majority of) Hoosiers share that view; after all, we don't outlaw homosexuality (and, for the record, the United States Supreme Court has held that consensual homosexual sex is protected by the Constitution).

Finally, Turner attempts to play upon the nuclear family bias by claiming that "[r]esearch throughout the years has shown that the mother-father model works best at establishing and maintaining stable families and well-adjusted children." While this statement may be accurate, Turner ignores the fact that a two-parent family, without regard to the gender of the parents, has also, I believe, been found to be more stable and to produce more well-adjusted children than single-parent families. So, while giving every child a happy, healthy (health insurance, anybody?), stable, two-parent family is a laudable goal, it is certainly not a reason to oppose a system whereby more two-parent families might exist and where more children might be adopted into those two-parent families instead of being left in a foster care system that can't properly care for those children. If Turner is so concerned about families and a stable environment for children, he should be screaming at the top of his lungs to allow gay marriage precisely to encourage more stable two-parent families and to offer the possibility of adoption for more Hoosier children. The fact that Turner turns [sorry] that analysis on its head and uses the need for two-parent households as a reason to oppose gay marriage demonstrates that Hoosier children are not his real concern.

I'm still not sure why the issue of gay marriage resonates so strongly with me, but it does. And I will not be shy about standing up telling people like Turner why they are wrong and why their viewpoint is, in essence, bigotry.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mast Cell Disorders on CaringBridge

As some of you may know, my wife suffers from a rare illness (Idiopathic Anaphylaxis). For some time, she has made herself available to people newly diagnosed with IA (a lot easier than the mouthful of the full name) or other mast cell related disorders (including mastocytosis). Anyway, she just went live with her own site to provide information and share ideas. Here's her welcome message:
Well, I have joined the world in creating a webpage/blog, although mine is designed as an info page for people with my disease. You probably aren’t interested in the info on it (pretty boring for you healthy people!), but if you ever wanted to know what I had, well, here’s your chance! I actually get contacted a lot by people across the nation who are looking for info on mast cell diseases. I am listed somewhere as an information contact person, so they find me and email or call me frequently. I decided to create this page so that I didn’t have to keep emailing out the same stuff over and over to various people.
To access her page directly, please visit


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LibraryThing: "World Without End"

I have updated my LibraryThing catalog with a review of World Without End by Ken Follett. I'm now reading The Moneypenny Diaries: Final Fling [Moneypenny Diaries #3] by Kate Westbrook and I'm hoping that I can finish it before the release of Devil May Care, the first new "real" James Bond novel in several years and the first set in the '60s since Colonel Sun. It's being released next week on the centennial of Fleming's birth.


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Monday, May 19, 2008

Organized Bigotry Ready for the Next Round

Now that California's Supreme Court has recognized that civil rights should apply to homosexuals, Indiana's bigots are ready for a renewed fight to be sure that gays in Indiana can't possibly be recognized as having civil rights by a Court. Proponents of the proposed amendment to enshrine discrimination into Indiana's Constitution are apparently gearing up to take the issues to voters and make gay marriage an "important" issue this fall. I strongly oppose the proposed Constitutional Amendment and I support gay marriage. I'm not quite sure why the issue resonates so strongly with me, but it does. And I'm not shy about saying so. I suspect that, over time, I will write on this issue at length and I want to make several things clear right from the start.

First, if my tone (such as the use of the word "bigot") seems aggressive or strident, it is supposed to. Personally, I believe that anyone who opposes gay rights is just as bigoted as someone who opposed interracial marriage or allowing a "negro" into the local country club or keeping quotas on the number of Jews in certain colleges or ... well, you get the picture. Gays are people and, no matter whether we think homosexuality is a choice or a function of DNA, as people, they are entitled to dignity and respect, just as are those of us in the heterosexual community. Anybody who thinks that a certain group is not entitled to basic human rights is, in my estimation, a bigot. End of story.

Second, even though I am a staunch supporter of gay rights, I am not, myself gay. So what? I'm not African-American either, but I support equal rights without regard to race. I'm male, but I support gender equality, too. I'm neither Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist, but I support rights for all religious communities as well. You see, I support the concept of human rights and civil rights and equal protection and I don't believe that some of those rights apply to certain groups but not other groups. Perhaps it's because I'm a member of a religious minority group myself that makes me sensitive to the rights of other minority groups, be they religious, racial, or whatever. But when people take a stand against extending rights (and that must be distinguished from privileges) to groups on the basis of race, gender, religion (or lack thereof), national origin, disability, or sexual orientation (and don't think that list is exclusive), then they are being bigoted.

Plus, ask yourself this: What is it about gay marriage, in particular, that makes people so outraged, so nervous, so angry, that they are willing to amend the Constitution to, for the first time in Indiana's history, enshrine discrimination into our basic governing law. Look through Indiana's Constitution and the US Constitution and see how many times we've amended those documents to take rights away or to limit the extension of rights. I think you'll find that, with the exception of prohibition (which was quickly repealed), both the Indiana Constitution and the US Constitution are documents that have been used to grant and extend rights, not to limit rights or to prevent their extension.

Third, if gays are allowed to marry, it will not weaken the institution of marriage. My wife and I may argue about lots of things (and who doesn't?); there may be lots of things that put stress on our relationship, whether it be work, money, family, which TV show to watch, whether to have chicken or fish for dinner, whether we want to the front door to stay green or be painted blue, instead, or who gets to feed the goldfish tonight. But whether a gay couple is allowed to marry or ... gasp ... adopt a child, will certainly not be one of the things that puts a strain on our marriage, make our marriage any less meaningful, or make us love each other or our children any less. To those who believe that allowing gays to marry will weaken the institution of marriage, I suggest that they first watch a TV show like Extra for the latest on celebrity hook-ups and divorces (how long was Britney married that first time?). Next, they should look at divorce rates and the difficulties presented to children of divorced parents. Then they should visit an orphanage or check out the lives of children living in foster care facilities. Finally, they should take a big time out and really evaluate what is important in their own marriage and what makes it stronger or weaker. Then, they can then tell me about the "integrity" of the institution of marriage.

Fourth: What exactly does the government have to do with marriage anyway? Most objections to gay marriage are, at their core, based on religious opposition to homosexuality. If a religious tradition does not support gay marriage, then that religion does not have to marry a gay couple. But marriage is about more than words spoken by a priest or rabbi or imam; marriage, from the perspective of our government and laws, is also about property rights, health care decisions, family planning, and other matters that have nothing to do with religion. Perhaps religious marriage and the government should be separated completely. Let religions marry people and let the state recognize civil unions (both hetero- and homosexual). Then, property rights and other legal implications of "marriage" could be divorced (pardon the pun, I couldn't resist) from the religious "meaning".

Fifth: Why are those on the right of the political spectrum so opposed to "judicial activism" when it overturns laws that discriminate or take away certain rights, but don't have any problems when other judges invalidate laws that take away other rights? The California judges who believe in equality are thought to be upsetting the will of the people, but judges who overturn gun control laws are viewed in an entirely different light. More importantly, there is a very simple concept that many opposed to judicial activism (and gay marriage, in particular) fail to understand. An example of this failure is evident in a letter to the editor published in today's The Indianapolis Star in which reader Tim McDowell bemoans the fact that the California Supreme Court dismissed the wishes of California voters. What is implicit in this letter is the notion that, if voters want something, then courts should always respect that decision.

The problem, of course, with this viewpoint is that it is anathema to the very way in which a constitutional democracy like ours is supposed to work. Mr. McDowell apparently does not understand the very premise that the role of the judiciary in our constitutional democracy is to protect the rights of the minority. As I've mentioned in the past, I suspect that a majority of voters could be convinced to outlaw Islam or Judaism or to make Christianity the "official" religion of Indiana, to stop newspapers from criticizing the government, or to take away any of a host of rights that have been recognized over the last 200+ years. But the point of the judiciary is to protect minority groups from the whims of a majority. Our Constitution protects freedom of religion, even if a majority thinks that Islam should be banned. Our Constitution doesn't allow a majority to decide that African-Americans can't live in a certain community. It was "activist judges" who recognized that "separate but equal" school segregation was unconstitutional as was a ban on interracial marriages. Yet people like Mr. McDowell would appear to suggest that the will of the majority should be allowed to trump the rights of the minority. That is not America. I wonder what people like Mr. McDowell think about popular decisions to ban guns in certain communities, even if that popular decision might be in violation of the 2nd Amendment? Should the will of the majority trump any individual rights that may be found in 2nd Amendment? And what if the women in society (who, I believe, hold a slim majority) voted to take rights away from men? What would Mr. McDowell say? Would he allow voters in Martinsville to ban African-Americans or Jews from moving to their town? Could voters in Marion/Hamilton County vote to outlaw Republicans/Democrats (as applicable) in their respective county? Why is it OK for judges to strike down some laws but not others? Why are some rights worthy of protection but not others?

It has always been easy for the majority to take rights away from (or refuse to extend them to) a minority group, but the very essence of our system protects all groups from the whims of the majority. That is one of the reasons that our system of government has often been described as flawed but still the best ever created. Just because a majority may not want gays to have full civil rights, is not reason for the courts to ignore what is right, even if unpopular. Judicial activism is rarely anything more than the courts intervening to protect the minority from the majority as our judicial system was designed to do.

OK, I know. I got a bit off topic there. But that's OK. My point is this. I support the right of gays to be left alone and treated like everyone else, and that includes the right to marry (although I'm willing to call it something else if that makes the objective easier to obtain). And, I believe that those who oppose extending civil rights to groups on the basis of sexual orientation (not to mention numerous other reasons) are, essentially, bigots. So, as the issue begins to be debated again (and used as a wedge issue to divert attention from more serious issues like Iraq and the economy), I intend to speak up, often and loudly. I oppose the proposed Constitutional Amendment to ban gay marriage and I intend to use this blog to help explain why and to take to task those bigots who would deprive others of basic human rights.

Or maybe we should just find a majority willing to pass a law to make bigots just shut up and go away. What would they say to a majority who didn't want to hear them spew their bigotry, narrow-mindedness, and hatred. Then again, much as it pains me, I believe in the 1st Amendment and the rights of idiots to say what they want. But I also believe that I have the right, if not the duty, to tell them what I think of their ideas.

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Reasons Not to Vote for John McCain

Reasons to vote against McCainAs we begin to transition from the primary election season into the general election campaign (I know, I know, Sen. Obama hasn't wrapped up the nomination yet, even though he's campaigning as if he has), I hope to start taking more time to examine the candidates and, more importantly, the issues. I'm sure that I will have plenty of time to engage in serious discussion and offer some "deep thoughts" as the campaign goes on and the election draws nearer.

So, with that in mind, I decided to start with a bit more lighthearted (though, nevertheless, frightening) bit of reasoning for why I won't be voting for John McCain this fall, whether the eventual Democratic candidate is Hillary Clinton or Barack Obama. As, the old cliche goes, a picture is worth a thousand words. I just hope that this picture translates into millions of votes!

They do make a cute couple, don't they?

(Note: I came across this photo on another blog; I was unable to find credits for the photo and, thus, cannot give proper attribution.)


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Monday, May 12, 2008

LibraryThing: "Judaism: A Very Short Introduction"

I have updated my LibraryThing catalog with a review of Judaism: A Very Short Introduction [Very Short Introduction #11] by Norman Solomon.


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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Voter ID Law Is Bad for Democracy (Update 7)

So did you hear the one about the nuns who were denied the right to vote?

While that sounds like the opening line to a bad joke, it is, unfortunately, what happened to a group of nuns during Indiana's May 6 primary. According to the Associated Press (as reported on

About 12 Indiana nuns were turned away Tuesday from a polling place by a fellow sister because they didn't have state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

Sister Julie McGuire said she was forced to turn away her fellow members of Saint Mary's Convent in South Bend, across the street from the University of Notre Dame, because they had been told earlier that they would need such an ID to vote.

The nuns, all in their 80s or 90s, didn't get one but came to the precinct anyway.

One came down this morning, and she was 98, and she said, 'I don't want to go do that,'" Sister McGuire said. Some showed up with outdated passports. None of them drives.

The convent will make "a very concerted effort" to get proper identification for the nuns in time for the general election. "We're going to take from now until November to get them out and get this done.

"You can't do this like school kids on a bus," she said. "I wish we could."

Late Tuesday, Secretary of State Todd Rokita was unapologetic.

"Indiana's Voter ID Law applies to everyone. From all accounts that we've heard, the sisters were aware of the photo ID requirements and chose not to follow them," he said in a statement released by his office.

Elsewhere across the pivotal state, voting appeared to run smoothly, despite the fears of some elections experts that the Supreme Court's recent refusal to strike down Indiana's controversial photo identification law could cause confusion at the polls.

Indiana's photo ID law is the strictest in the country. The Republican-led effort was designed to combat ballot fraud, said supporters, who also have acknowledged that no case involving someone impersonating a voter at the polls has ever been prosecuted in Indiana.

ACLU files lawsuit

The state's American Civil Liberties Union sued, calling the law a poll tax that disproportionately affected minorities and elderly voters, those most likely to lack such identification. On April 28, the Supreme Court ruled 6 to 3 that the law did not violate the Constitution.

In a primary expected to draw record numbers, a voter hot line set up by the secretary of state's office mostly received calls concerning precinct locations, spokeswoman Bethany Derringer said.

But a group of voting rights advocates that established a separate hot line reported receiving several calls from would-be voters who were turned away at precincts because they lacked state or federal identification bearing a photograph.

One newly married woman said she was told she couldn't vote because her driver's license name didn't match the one on her voter registration record, said Myrna Perez of the Brennan Center Justice at New York University's law school, coordinator of the 1-866-OUR-VOTE hot line. Another woman said she was turned away from casting her first-ever ballot because she had only a college-issued ID card and an out-of-state driver's license, Perez said.

"These laws are confusing. People don't know how they're supposed to be applied," she said.

Not the right kind of ID

According to the New Voters Project, sponsored by Student Public Interest Groups, about a dozen college students at Notre Dame, Butler University and Indiana University said they were told at the polls they didn't have the right form of identification.

Angela Hiss, a 19-year-old sophomore at Notre Dame, presented her Notre Dame ID card and her Illinois driver's license. Poll workers did not inform her that she could have cast a provisional ballot, she told project staff monitoring her polling place.

For a similar story, see "Nuns, Students Blocked from Voting in Indiana -- Where's Congress?" by Art Levine.

These stories come out of one small portion of Indiana. How many other voters were turned away? How many of those without valid photo ID were given the chance to cast a provisional ballot? How many Hoosiers tried to get a photo ID but were unable to do so in time for the election? How many people were disenfranchised all in the name of preventing in person voter fraud that has never happened in Indiana?

I've already discussed this issue at length (see Voter ID Law Is Bad for Democracy, and Update 1, Update 2, Update 3, Update 4 , Update 5, and Update 6 to that post) and won't rehash those arguments here. I will, however, reiterate my previous sentiment that laws that have the potential to disenfranchise voters (whether 98-year-old nuns, newly married women, or first time voters) are not good for democracy, especially when the stated (though not real) purpose of those laws is to prevent a type of voter fraud that has never occurred in Indiana.

One other point that I'd like to make: I've criticized Indiana's Secretary of State Todd Rokita repeatedly on this issue. His apparent lack of concern over the inability of some Indiana citizens to vote, as expressed by his quotation in the above article, I find truly astounding. Yes, the nuns were aware of the law and yes they "chose" to ignore it. Of course, the Supreme Court only ruled on the issue 8 days before the primary; so how, exactly, was the 98-year-old nun who doesn't drive supposed to get her photo ID? How was the newly married woman supposed to get hers? For that matter, why should the 98-year old nun who lives in a convent even have a photo ID at all? It appears that the only reason is to vote. Are we really comfortable with telling these voters, "Sorry, but that's the law, and you don't get to vote; because you don't have a photo ID, you don't get to exercise your Constitutional right to vote"? I don't know about you, but it makes me very uncomfortable.

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I've Been Stumbled Upon

OK, I'll admit it. This blog is not the destination spot on the web. I know it and I've come to grips with that fact. While I'd love for more people to read (and comment, too), like the name of the blog and the title note suggest, this is really a chance for me to share my thoughts and vent. So, if people read what I post, great; if not, well, it's their loss.

So, anyway, on most days, I get a handful of hits. Some people are reading. Some topics seem to generate more interest than others; others generate hardly any interest. OK. But last night, something really odd happened. During the hours of the news coverage concerning Indiana's primary, my blog received more hits than it has had in the last few weeks combined! Apparently, someone added my post "Problems With Indiana's Primary Voting System" to the StumbleUpon social network and people began stumbling onto my site.

To whomever posted my site on StumbleUpon: Thank you!


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Goodbye Candidates

Last week, I heard an interview with Indiana's Governor Mitch Daniels. He commented on how exciting it was to have the Presidential candidates paying attention to Indiana and Hoosier voters. But, he noted wistfully, as soon as the primary was over, that would be the last that Indiana would see of Presidential candidates. Well, the primary is over. Sen. Clinton won by a pretty thin margin. And off she goes to West Virginia; Sen. Obama had already left for North Carolina (and then, I presume, on to West Virginia). Unfortunately, because Indiana is widely regarded as a "red state" (I don't think that Indiana has voted for the Democratic candidate since before the Mayflower...), Gov. Daniels' prediction is sure to come true. It was fun while it lasted.

Of course, there is one possibility for us to see the candidates again: If Indiana's Democratic voters speak loudly enough (I'm not sure if that only means "raise lots of money" or not) in support of the eventual candidate and in support of local Democratic candidates (in particular, the Democratic candidate for Governor), then it remains possible (though a remote and highly unlikely possibility) of Indiana being thought of as "in play". Yes, Indiana has a reputation for voting Republican; but let's don't forget that Indiana had a Democratic governor for four terms and has often had at least one Democratic Senator. And over 1,000,000 votes were cast for the two Democratic Presidential candidates yesterday (yeah, I know some were crossover votes). So anything is possible.

What? Where do the rules say that wishful thinking is prohibited?

Come November, if gas prices are still high (I heard a prediction Tuesday afternoon that suggested that by next spring gas prices might be close to $7 per gallon), if Hoosiers are still dying in Iraq, if jobs are still vanishing, if the Supreme Court continues to eat away at our civil liberties (did you hear about the 98 year old nun who couldn't vote yesterday because she didn't have a valid photo ID?), if Hoosiers continue to be unable to afford healthcare and drugs, if John McCain continues to suggest that it would be acceptable for American troops to stay in Iraq for 100 years, if more people continue to recognize the threat of global warming, if ... well, you get the idea. Come November, anything is possible.

That may be wishful thinking, but then isn't "hope" part of the American dream?

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

I Voted

What a bizarre feeling, going into the voting booth knowing that my vote might actually matter. Anyway, I spent a lot of time yesterday afternoon and evening thinking about who to vote for, talking to people with opinions and insight that I value, even going so far as to read some campaign literature. In the end, just as I suggested I would, I based my decision primarily on who I thought had the best chance to be elected in November. I factored in which candidate I thought would cause more people to either stay home or defect, which candidate I thought would attract more independent voters, and which candidate I thought would bring more new voters to the polls. To this mix, I added my concerns about how electoral turnout in the fall might impact gubernatorial and Congressional races. Finally, I thought back upon a few of the issues that have been discussed (the gas tax moratorium, for example) and some of the ways that the campaigns have been run.

After considering all of this, I decided to vote for Barack Obama.


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Monday, May 5, 2008

And the Endorsement Goes To:

So tomorrow is (finally) primary day and it's time for me to decide who I'm going to vote for. I must say that, as much as I want to vote in the Presidential primary, it is very tempting to cross over and vote in the Republican primary just so that I can vote against Dan Burton (which would mean a vote for Dr. John McGoff). But, as much as I dislike (loathe? detest?) Dan Burton, I'm going to have to leave that race aside and focus on the Democratic ticket.

The first race is for Governor. I've decided to vote for Jill Long Thompson. My decision is based, in part, on my perception that she knows what she's doing (at least more so than does Jim Schellinger) and, in part, on my perception that Jim Schellinger has no clue what he's doing. I think that a viable Democratic challenger can give Mitch Daniels a good race and I just don't think that Schellinger is that challenger. I'm not sure that Jill Long Thompson is either, but at this point she appears far more electable, so that's where my vote is going.

For U.S. House District 5, I'm planning to give my (throwaway) vote to Kenny Stall on the basis of his education and residence. Mary Etta Ruley also has a decent educational background, but I prefer the doctor for the Indianapolis area to the small business owner from Gas City. It doesn't really matter as whoever wins will be crushed by the Republican candidate (barring a really fierce kick out the incumbents sentiment).

For Indiana House District 39, I'm voting for Rusty Skoog for two reasons. First, I've met Rusty several times and he seems like a pretty good guy with some good ideas. Second, he's the only candidate.

For School Board, I'm going to vote for Andrew Klein and Tricia Hackett. After (briefly) reading about the candidates, these two seem the best positioned to keep the Carmel school system moving in a direction that I approve of. Plus, and I hate to admit it, I'm inclined to vote for Andrew Klein on the basis of his religious affiliation. While religion may not matter in most instances, I've seen enough of public schools imposing religion upon students, either intentionally or inadvertently, and the Jewish community has a long history of speaking out and trying to keep the separation of church and state strong in our public school system. I don't know Mr. Klein's views on the subject; they weren't listed on the materials that I could find. But, given his background, education, and employment, I'm willing to guess that his views will be at least similar to mine.

Finally (and most importantly), for President of the United States, I intend to vote for Hillary ... er ... Barack ... er ... Hil ... no, wait ... Bar ... or was that Clinton ... maybe Obama ... no, I think it was Hillary ... or maybe Barack ... damn. Would you believe that with less than 12 hours until the polls open, I still haven't made up my mind. I will say that at this point, I'm focusing on who I think has the best chance to defeat John McCain in November. I think that Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama are so close on most of the issues that their really is very little to distinguish them. Instead, the real questions become which one can stand up to Sen. McCain, which one can get voters to the polls, which one can turn out new voters, which one can attract independents, which one has less baggage, which one will incur less negative press and voter sentiment, and which one will be able to spend more time talking about the issues and challenging Sen. McCain while spending less time defending his or her baggage and skeletons. Both candidates seem very good yet both candidates also seem to scare off a lot of voters. It may be a long night trying to figure this one out. Because, of course, my vote will be the deciding vote...


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