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Being the last one picked

You know how no one wants to be the one to take the last cookie, or the last pizza slice, or the last dinner roll? That sort of insensitivity just boggles my mind. I mean, that food item probably already feels bad about being the last one picked. You all can hesitate if you want, but I am not going to sit here and let you prolong its humiliation any longer.

A cool version of “All I Want For Christmas Is You”

Mariah Carey is way talented and way gorgeous, but let’s face it, that Christmas song of hers is way overplayed and makes me feel way Grinchy. Yet, somehow, Jimmy Fallon and the Roots, and a bunch of schoolkids popping up out of nowhere, have made the song way cool, and so now I feel way, um, non-Grinchy.

Today’s elementary school shooting in Connecticut

I’m not sure what has been more annoying today: listening to people blame the NRA and lax gun control for today’s tragedy, or listening to people tie this tragedy to secularists forcing God out of the schools, or any other version of the ridiculous political blame game. I would prefer to simply grieve about what happened, and look for comforting thoughts and messages that unify us, rather than turn this into a political battle and mindlessly demand government remedies that probably wouldn’t prevent tragedies like this anyway. But if you need to blather and point fingers to feel better, I guess do what you need to do.

Right-to-die issue fails in Massachusetts

The right-to-die ballot issue in Massachusetts is too close to call for certain, but at the moment, it is failing, narrowly. We will see how things turn out. has failed, narrowly. It was the single vote in the entire country that I cared about the most. The Catholic Church and other religious organizations poured a lot of money into their effort to defeat this issue. They produced campaign propaganda that said many misleading things, including outright lies about the act’s supposed lack of safeguards. There were opponents in the medical and disability-rights communities, too. But the overwhelming bulk of the opposition was motivated by religion.

I have long argued that the metaphysical claims of religions are untrue. Unlike some of my fellow nonbelievers, however, I have not argued that religion is necessarily bad for society. Religion can be a great consolation to people, and it can motivate them to do very good things. But it can also motivate people to do very evil things. The religious campaign against individual choice in dying is one of those evil things. And I imagine I will be dedicating a large portion of the rest of my life to fighting this type of evil, carried out in the name of a fantasy deity. And not just on this issue, but on a number of others.

My 2012 election night Facebook commentary

The 2012 election took place yesterday, and I made numerous posts on Facebook last night. Many of them were Nebraska-specific or Lincoln-specific, but several were about national contests or contests in other states. Here are my comments, collected in one place for your reading pleasure. The only comment that is not here is about the right-to-die ballot issue in Massachusetts. I will post that comment separately. (All times CST.)

6:25 p.m.: OK, I’m headed to the polls. I am still undecided about a couple of things. One is the state constitutional amendment regarding hunting and fishing. The other is whether I should vote for Gary Johnson or Barack Obama. Probably I’ll decide right there in the booth.

8:14 p.m.: OK. I voted for Bob Kerrey, Korey Reiman, Frank Landis, Larry Hudkins, Kyle Michaelis, Mike Jones, Jim Garver, Ruth Johnson, Greg Osborn, yes on all of the judges, yes on the storm water bond issue, yes on all four state constitutional amendments (including the hunting/fishing one), and … Barack Obama. Now, off to party with soon-to-be State Senator Kate Bolz. Good luck to everyone running today, and may all the lesser-evil men and women win! (Note: Kate is a personal friend.)

9:38 p.m.: Congratulations to Deb Fischer, the first woman to be elected to a full term as a U.S. senator from Nebraska.

10:12 p.m.: In Nebraska, Amendment 3 (extending legislative term limits from two terms to three), and Amendment 4 (raising legislative pay from $12,000 to $22,500), are both losing big. I hate pointing out when my fellow Nebraskans are being short-sighted. But, my fellow Nebraskans, on those two issues, you are being short-sighted.

10:25 p.m.: Congratulations to Barack Obama on his reelection. And congratulations to Mitt Romney on running quite a campaign, and on possibly coming out ahead in the popular vote. In fact, I kind of hope Romney wins the popular vote, because then we will have a bipartisan case for finally getting rid of the electoral college.

10:49 p.m.: Congratulations to the following Nebraskans who won big tonight:
– Jeff Fortenberry in the 1st Congressional District. Keep on getting more moderate. You’re showing promise.
– Adrian Smith in the 3rd Congressional District. Give some thought to becoming more moderate, even though you don’t have to.
– Ernie Chambers in District 11 of the Nebraska Legislature. Welcome back. You are a lifelong hero of mine. I feel confident you’ll get the death penalty repealed here before you kick off.

10:50 p.m.: I’m at Kate Bolz’s party tonight. It is now officially a victory party. Come January, she’ll be Senator Bolz, representing District 29 in the Nebraska Legislature. Congratulations!

11:08 p.m.: Congratulations to gay America tonight. Same-sex marriage has prevailed in Maine, and it looks like it will also prevail in Maryland and Washington state (and, sort of, in Minnesota too). And, Wisconsin just elected the first openly gay person to the U.S. Senate in history, Tammy Baldwin.

11:56 p.m.: Congratulations to pot-smoking America tonight. Colorado and Washington have become the first states to legalize it. And not just for medical purposes, either. It’s too bad there is no more Mile High Stadium, because it would have been great to get high there. You can still get high in the Space Needle, though.

1:01 a.m.: I hope Obama appoints Bruce Springsteen to something.

1:03 a.m.: Nice speeches, both of you guys.

1:09 a.m.: Congratulations to Lee Terry, winner in Nebraska’s 2nd Congressional District. And congratulations to his challenger, John Ewing, for being a great candidate. Try again in two years. Seriously. And Rep. Terry, pay attention to what the Omaha World-Herald said.

1:17 a.m.: Congratulations to Nebraska State Senator Colby Coash, who was reelected in District 27 (my district). I voted for your challenger, but it was not an easy decision. I have heard good things about your temperament, not only from the Omaha World-Herald and the Lincoln Journal Star, but also from people who know you.

1:37 a.m.: Congratulations to Lillie Larsen, Mark Quandahl, Rachel Wise, and Rebecca Valdez for being elected (or reelected) to the Nebraska State Board of Education, and congratulations to Jim Pillen, Bob Whitehouse, Lavon Heidemann, and Hal Daub for being elected (or reelected) to the University of Nebraska Board of Regents. (Ms. Wise, I thought you were great in The Shape of Things and The Constant Gardener.)

2:12 a.m.: Congratulations to State Senator-Elect John Murante in District 49. The Omaha World-Herald had good things to say about you. Of course, we all know that it’s gonna be Melissa Ekberg Murante pulling the strings behind the scenes. :-) (Note: Melissa is a personal friend.)

2:26 a.m.: That Soledad O’Brien seems like a nice girl.

My #1 desired biological trait

For my job I have been reading a lot of biology lately. It makes me wonder, what trait or traits, possessed by other organisms on our planet, do you wish you had as a human? I’m going to go with the ability to reproduce both sexually and asexually, perhaps through fission, or budding off of my abdomen.

My presidential voting decisions

There are a couple of reasons that presidential votes are getting harder for me. One is the Supreme Court. I really, really like the balance on the court right now — four conservatives, four liberals, and Justice Kennedy as a swing voter. But Kennedy is likely to retire soon, and this could tip the balance of the court. I’m sure most people would like to see the balance tip either to the left or the right, but I want to preserve it. I want to see abortion rights, gay rights, and habeas corpus rights upheld, but I also want to see corporate speech and electioneering rights upheld, and Second Amendment gun rights upheld. So, when Kennedy retires, which presidential candidate (Obama or Romney) would be most likely to appoint a moderate justice? Or, which current justice would be most likely to become more moderate and fill a Kennedy role? Justice Roberts? Justice Breyer? It’s a difficult call.

Another reason is foreign policy. I suspect Obama and Romney would have similar foreign policy. They’d both continue the drone strikes in Pakistan, they’d both continue to deny due-process rights to foreign terrorist suspects, and they’d both be likely to engage us, or not engage us, in military conflicts that I may see as either wise or unwise. So foreign policy seems like a wash.

I don’t have strong enough opinions on most economic issues, including health care, taxes, and entitlements. And in any event, presidents have much less control over the economy than is popularly believed.

So I end up defaulting to the culture war issues like religion, abortion, gay rights, science in schools, etc. What the Republican Party has to say on these issues turns me off a lot more than what the Democratic Party has to say, and this is why I usually end up voting for Democrats.

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