Raft of Reads

Over the holiday month, I spent time with the Wisconsin Hospital for the Insane near Madison. Notice I didn’t write inside the facility! I ventured into the question of whether Lincoln belongs to the ages or to the angels. And I once again ventured with George Smiley where it all began on the printed pages. As the New Year starts I am in the heart of the Whiskey Rebellion.

In other words, our home is still abiding by the stay at home guidelines during the pandemic as Amazon continues to deliver books on the front stoop. From those boxes, James and I venture far and wide as we pick from the reading nooks here where James drinks tea, as I have my mug of coffee. One of my reading nooks is this window seat.

While I read The Best Specimen of a Tyrant because it had a Madison storyline, and the history of the Civil War is of interest, I was left wishing for a more compelling method of writing. Thomas Doherty did his research, which is not to be doubted. The first chapter swings hard and makes an impact as one can feel the mental health problems of a man, and the stresses placed on the family as they seek medical advice. But the Civil War writing in the book simply does not sparkle.

The story of Wisconsin soldiers in Louisiana and the methods of transport and illness suffered by them is a compelling story. I only wish it had been presented in a more entertaining narrative. But when it comes to portraying Dr. Abraham Van Norstrand there is no doubt Doherty allowed for a multi-faceted and accurate measure of the man. He became the superintendent of the state’s first hospital for the insane. There is no way not to utterly despise the man for his greedy actions.

A Wisconsin legislator from the early days of our state spent over 30 years in the state insane hospital In Madison. Page 154 is intriguing with this story, though I can not locate more information about him online.

Adam Gopnik, a noted and gifted writer in The New Yorker, wrote a series of essays for a slim but thought-provoking read about Abraham Lincoln and Charles Darwin. Angels And Ages was a book that required reading and reflection–at times in almost equal measure. He offers reflections about these essential men in the lives of mankind.

With richness in writing Gopnik offers a view about how freedom and democracy were presented by Lincoln and the grand design of life itself from Darwin. The way they spoke and wrote as they articulated their views to the masses is quite a story. With monosyllables and step-by-step logic building, we watch Lincoln make his case. Meanwhile, Darwin writes so anyone with an inclination can read his Origin Of Species and come to a comprehension of the complicated theory of evolution. What binds these men are not only that they were born on the same day but also the family ties that engaged them, and personal tragedies that befell them as men. And of course the massive footsteps they left for all of us over the ages.

One of the saddest losses in 2020 was the death of John le Carré. To honor him and also take me back to a book I read decades ago I again picked up Call for the Dead. This is not only le Carré’s first novel, but it is also the start of the character the world came to love. George Smiley. The slim book is a fast-paced story about East German spies inside Great Britain.

As the New Year starts I am now reading for the first time a book by David Liss. Many have raved about his historical novels. With one-fifth of The Whiskey Rebels finished I can state his first-person writing for each of the two main characters is drawing me into the plot. I am enjoying not only the historical time frame of President Washington and his Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton but also the financial aspects of the overall plotting. The reader is dropped into the harsh society of western Pennsylvania at the same time the wealthy of Philadelphia are made part of the mystery and intrigue. The ‘two-halves’ are presented marvelously.

There is no better way to start another year of blogging than to write of books!

Is Senator Elizabeth Dole Nuts?

Or can she truly be this power hungry?

Days after releasing an ad suggesting that Democrat Kay Hagan was a godless American, Sen. Elizabeth Dole (R-N.C) is up with a sequel.

Her new ad emphasizes Hagan’s attendance at a September fundraiser, which was held at the house of an adviser to the Godless Americans PAC.

“Kay Hagan’s faith? Not the question. But these facts Hagan cannot deny. The Godless Americans held a fundraiser in her honor in Boston. Hagan attended and took their money,” the ad says.

“They want to take God out of the pledge of allegiance and our everyday lives. If Godless Americans threw a party in your honor, would you go?”

Hagan fired back yesterday with an ad of her own, accusing Dole of “bearing false witness against fellow Christians.” Hagan filed a defamation lawsuit yesterday against Dole for airing the initial ad.

2008 Presidential Predictions

We have finally arrived at the point in the election cycle where we can vote!  And the campaign commercials can end!  HOORAY!

I have my predictions broken down into three sections.  First is a brief analysis of the lay of the land, second the states are listed for each presidential candidate along with the electoral vote tally and projected final popular vote percentage, and third is a series of Congressional and Senate elections listed by state that I have been following, and wish to weigh in on.

First however, I want to post these predictions in honor of Tim Russert.  Mr. Russert loved the political campaign season, and was having a delightful time with the primaries that he covered earlier this year.  I know that he would have much enjoyed this summer’s events between the candidates, the intensity of the fall race, and been waiting anxiously for Election Day.  Tim’s sudden death earlier this year cast sadness over the political season.  It may seem corny to some, but in this small way his memory lives on here with those who love the excitement that a rough and tumble political season can produce.  Just like he did.  So this one is for Tim Russert.

Part One-The Political Landscape

The trends are clearly in Barack Obama’s direction, though the final results in many states are hard to decipher from the polling.  As I file this post for the weekend before the election I expect this race to tighten in the last 72 hours. The fact that this election was more about Obama needing to sell himself to the electorate, than the voters deciding who created the mess that caused our national distress and voting accordingly, is one reason that the polls are harder to read.  In addition is the unknown number of voters that will turn out, and to what degree the Obama GOTV effort will produce an outcome that might shake the rafters.  Also we need to be mindful of how many Republicans might feel so dispirited they may decide to not vote.  The biggest unknown is the degree to which racial bigotry will play a role.   (I might add with a wry smile that the bigotry from the GOP over the past years regarding Hispanics and immigration is one reason that the West will deliver for the Democrats,)

The winner of the White House will create a historic chapter for our nation.   However, having said that, I have a more conservative view of the lay of the land.  I have never thought that the Obama campaign was going to produce a landslide.  I still know our country is bitterly divided along cultural lines.  Two months ago, if pressed, I would have predicted that John McCain would have won the White House.   But after Sarah Palin, an economic crisis, and perhaps the worst run campaign in recent memory, John McCain has no chance to win.  We need to be mindful that no candidate, like McCain that is behind this far in the national polls, and this late in the campaign has come back to win.  Granted there have been come-from-behind victories, but they didn’t come back this far so late in the game.  In addition early voting has made comebacks harder and diminishes the impact of the kind of late-breaking development that might have worked for McCain.  I have read reports that suggest 1/3 of all votes might have been cast by early ballot.

So while Obama wins, I do not see an Electoral College tsunami.  I know that many are forecasting such an event, and if it happens, I will be elated.  But my mind and gut is telling me that a more conservative view is the correct one.  Either way, America will elect Barack Obama as the next President of the United States.

I am watching three separate races in three Eastern States where polls will close early, and as a result I think much will be known about the mood of the electorate early on Election Night.

First, in Virginia I will be watching to see if Barack Obama wins.  If he does, the night will be far shorter for John McCain, though it will feel like a very long night for the Republican Party from sea to sea.   It might also tell us that there is more than a mere ‘win’ coming for Obama nationally as the night continues.  A Virginia win for Obama might mean a huge victory of landslide proportions when all the votes are counted.  While I am predicting Virginia goes to Obama, I do not see the big sweep that so many are predicting.  In addition, if there is something happening for Obama in ‘red’ states, this means that McCain needs to pick up all the swing states.  Much might be told in Virginia.

Second, in North Carolina I will be watching the Senate race between Republican incumbent Elizabeth Dole, and her Democratic challenger Kay Hagan.  This race is indicative of whether Democrats will win enough seats to be in the zone of a 60-seat majority.  A defeat of Dole in North Carolina would aid the Democrats by putting them on the road to getting near the goal of 60 seats.

Third, the 4th Congressional District in Connecticut will be a barometer early in the evening to see if the House gains by Democrats will be closer to 15 or to 25.  Incumbent GOP Christopher Shays is one of the last of his party to serve in Congress from the Northeast.  Jim Himes, the Democratic opponent is close to undoing the 12-term Shays.  I hasten to add there have been others who came close in past elections.  Still, this race early in the night will tell us a great deal about the new Congress.

Part Two-And The Winner Is…

Barack Obama 291 Electoral Votes- 53.5% of the popular vote.

California, Colorado, Connecticut, Delaware, District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Iowa, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin

John McCain 247 Electoral Votes

Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah,  West Virginia, Wyoming

Part Three-Congressional Races

Democrats will have 57 U.S. Senate seats at the end of the night, and a gain of 22 House seats.

California

Placing the right of the electorate to vote on the civil rights for another group in this nation has been discussed at length on this blog.  If there is anything that can be labeled ‘un-American’, it is the desire of some to continually seek ways to undermine gay rights.  The latest such attempt, and a very dangerous one, is Prop 8 that seeks to undermine the California Supreme Court decision to allow for gay marriage.  There is no good way to poll on these measures, so no one knows what might happen.  I fear that many African-Americans who will turn out in large numbers for Obama, will allow cultural differences to come ahead of working for the civil rights of gay Americans. Much as I hate to predict it, Prop 8 will pass. 

Connecticut

4th CD-I suspect that even in this year where anything labeled GOP suffers, that Christopher Shays did just enough to distance himself from the tainted conservatives in his party to stay in office….again.  I will admit this is one tough politician and so he at least deserves a tip of the hat for dexterity under fire, which he dealt with this year.  If he were to lose that would be an indicator of the mood of the nation, and it would mean a very good night for House Democrats.

Georgia

While I think Senator Saxby Chambliss, the Republican incumbent wins, it has been a race of twists and turns.  Democratic challenger Jim Martin has turned a large pro-Obama movement his way, and helped to split the conservatives who are angry with Chambliss over the bailout vote.  It has been real interesting to see the Big Business Republicans fight the populist conservatives over the bailout measure.  Libertarian Allen Buckley is making this race even more interesting as election rules could force a run-off if one of the contenders does not make it over 50%.  Just for pure theatre this race will be fun to watch as the hours roll by on Election Night.

Kentucky

Senator Mitch McConnell should not have even needed to be talked about as a possible ‘leaning’ Republican seat.  As the Republican Minority Leader he should have never had a problem in his state.  But after the GOP treatment of South Dakota Senator Tom Daschle in 2006, this is tit-for tat.  In addition, this race has intrigued me all season, as McConnell seems to have a closeted view of the world.  The rumors about why he was discharged from the military during the Vietnam era after only four months of service has made for lots of speculation.  I think McConnell wins this election, but the questions about his ‘lifestyle’ (isn’t that the GOP way of speaking) will not go away.

Minnesota

I have long thought that the second most vulnerable U.S. Senator was Norm Coleman, (Dole being the first) and I still feel that way.  Though one of his opponents, Al Franken, has at times run a sloppy campaign, and made some, (lets be honest), stupid mistakes, I think the outrage over the condition of the nation, along with the Obama vote, will make the Democratic challenger the winner.  Dean Barkley from the Independence Party is drawing double-digit support in the polls, and while this confuses the race, I think the economic woes carry Franken to victory. As I write there are some poll results that show Coleman to be faring a bit better, but I think the cement hardened on this race a couple weeks ago.  Franken wins.

Nevada

A rematch that has been lots of fun to watch between Jill Derby the Democratic candidate, and the Republican incumbent Dean Heller, will produce a different outcome than in 2006.  Derby wins, and the Obama coat-tails will be the reason why.  John Kerry lost Nevada by 21,000 votes, and Obama has registered 5 times that many new energetic voters.  More younger voters live here and plan to vote, and fewer over 65-age voters make up the district.  Welcome to Congress, Jill!

Ohio

2nd CD-If there is any common sense in the 2nd CD Jean Schmidt will be retired this evening.  Long on my radar after her most uncivilized speech on the House floor against a fellow member, there is only one place she deserves to be.  On the outside looking in.  The name-calling incident was a one-minute House speech by Schmidt that put the House of Representatives in an uproar. In that minute, Schmidt criticized Congressman John Murtha, and used the term “coward,” saying s “…send Congressman Murtha a message, that cowards cut and run, Marines never do.”  Schmidt has two opponents in her race, Democrat Victoria Wulsin and Independent David Krikorian. In spite of more African-American votes due to Obama, I am predicting that Schmidt will win, but still hope that sanity might prevail.  Her type of behavior in a legislative body is unforgivable.

Wisconsin

8th CD-This is the only real congressional race in the state, and I think it will be a long night counting.  While Republicans are not popular nationwide, John Gard was not in Washington these past two years, and I think that makes all the difference.  Northeast Wisconsin is very conservative, and even a strong Obama vote will be hard pressed to save incumbent Democrat Steve Kagen.  The CD might elect a Democrat, but they have a hard time sending one back for a second term.  Only Democrat Robert Cornell won re-election.  Kagen is smarter, but Gard wins.  The district will be the loser in the long run.

 

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Senators Norm Coleman And Elizabeth Dole Looking For Day Jobs

There are a number of intense and spirited U.S. Senate races across the nation, that if played right, the outcomes will allow the Democratic Party to gain a 60-seat filibuster proof majority.  We need to have Washington work again without partisan harshness, or procedural games, in order to fix our nation.  The races in places like Minnesota and North Carolina are very important to meet that goal.

Republican Norm Coleman who filled the seat of the much loved, and respected Paul Wellstone, who died in office, is facing a tough race.  As such, it is a real delightful one for us to watch.  Though his Democratic competitor Al Franken has not been as artful and politically astute as many hoped at certain times this summer, he has proved to be a great campaigner when most of the voters are truly paying attention.  That being right now in the final weeks of the fall campaign.

The recent dust-up this past week over the question as to who buys Senator Coleman’s suits seems like it could have been handled with a quick response.  (But then I thought asking Sarah Palin what newspapers she read required only a quick reply too.) The allegations, as raised in a Harpers online article, claimed that Nasser Kazeminy, a mover and shaker with deep pockets within the Minnesota GOP, might have bought the clothes on the Senator’s back.  Why it proved so difficult to answer was just plain mystifying.   As I did a You Tube search tonight on Senator Coleman I found this nugget that just seems so hard to explain, politically speaking.

Senator Coleman later stated that he and his wife do his clothes shopping, but there seems to be yet more inquires to come on this matter, and others associated with it.  His attempt at this late date to pull all his negative ads….except those that he ‘can’t’ control….is a sign that his internal polls are showing the train is off the tracks and heading down the side of the hill.   Coleman’s attempts now to have talks with ordinary voters in small towns and places around Minnesota might be too little, too late.   As if all this is not enough to make one smile comes word that Senator Lieberman is going to try and help him get re-elected.  (LOL)  I suspect Coleman’s campaign winds up in one of the many Minnesota lakes on Election Night.

The great unknown is the amount of support that the third party candidate, Dean Barkley the spoiler, will play in the outcome.  It would be tragic if Barkley denied Franken the win, or the Democratic Party a 60-seat majority.

In North Carolina one of the truly surprising tales this season that has come to light is the lack of awareness that Elizabeth Dole has shown over the years to her constituents.  She and her husband Bob Dole are among the best political minds in the GOP for understanding the mechanics of politics.  Or so we thought.  But when it was reported that she was almost never back in North Carolina, and was seriously out of touch with the needs of her state, her race soon became a disaster for the GOP.  There is almost no one who thinks she can retake the lead in this race.

The fact that over the years she has not demonstrated any issue she feels grounded enough with to take the lead on has been the biggest surprise to me.  She was invisible, and I thought her style would be more energized and robust when given the power of a Senator.  She is not one who seeks interviews to advance her issues, and as such is seen as a placeholder and not a leader.   Not what one wishes from a first-term Senator.

Her Democratic opponent Kay Hagen was taken for granted by Dole, and then treated harshly in a vicious and mean-spirited series of campaign ads that have only injured Dole in the eyes of the electorate.

Readers here can see the outlines of at least one solid prediction coming down the road for release on Sunday, November 2, 2008.

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