Thursday, October 30, 2008

McCain Collects Another Big Endorsement: Bob the Parakeet

Today, Republican presidential candidate John McCain picked up the eager endorsement of Bob the Parakeet. McCain, speaking at a rally outside of suburban Scaramento, spoke movingly about Bob's life circumstances: "Under Barack Obama's plan, Bob's cage size would be reduced, his food would be taxed and if he wanted to start up a small business, he'd be penalized. My plan would give Bob 5000 pounds of birdseed per year. He can start a family. Send his kids to college. He can fulfill the American dream".

Bob, reached for comment in the living room of his fashionable, East side Madison apartment chirped long and loud about the virtues of Mr McCain. It was clear that in some way, Bob was actually hearing the McCain message.

Vice presidential candidate, Sara Palin, commented: "I love birds, especially at Thanksgiving. heehee!". Pundits regarded this as just the latest in a series of major gaffes in the often troubled and confused McCain campaign. "Thanks to this stupid comment by Palin," said Republican Senator Norm Coleman, "we've lost the parakeet vote".

Protestors have gathered on the lawn of Bob the Parakeet's apartment. One local resident, Mr Ether, carrying a sign that read "Birdbrains for McCain" commented that "the only way Bob the parakeet can spread the wealth around is on the newspaper lining the bottom of his cage!" Bob could not be reached for comment.

The Road: Quaker Peace Testimony to Conscientious Objector

This past First Day, I had the joy of "leading" a group of 7 Quaker high school teens in the first part of a journey to understand the Quaker Peaace Testimony and move towards building a file in support of conscientious objector status. It was a lively group (brownies and cupcakes always help). We read the early phrasing of the Peace Testimony from the 1600's. We talked about it a bit. One teen said that it bothered him that Quakers are often quite good at talking the talk, but not WALKING the talk when it comes to the Peace Testimony. Others talked about the fighting that goes on in their high schools. The fights are almost "entertainment" for some. One teen shared how her principal declared a "Patriotism Week" which included "patriotic" music piped over the PA system and other events. Her dad went in and talked with the prinicipal about his objections to this "Week". The teens were very moved by this action of someone walking the talk. I asked about what a "Peace Week" might look like. Several ideas were tossed around. At the end, a couple of the teens voiced interest in getting to the part of this "journey" where we start building the file. We will get there, but building a foundation is key. As always, I come away from my experience as "leader" feeling led into some new wisdom that the teens offer. It's a blessing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

"God looks after drunks, little children and the United States of America."

John McCain in the Echo Chamber
by Gore Vidal
Published on Tuesday, October 28, 2008 by

October proved to be the cruelest month, for that was the time that Sen. McCain, he of the round, blank, Little Orphan Annie eyes, chose to try out a number of weird lies about Barack Obama ostensibly in the interest of a Republican Party long overdue for burial.

It is a wonder that any viewer survived his furious October onslaught whose craziest lie was that Obama wished to become president in order to tax the poor in the interest of a Democratic Party in place, as he put it in his best 1936 voice, to spend and spend because that's what Democrats always do. This was pretty feeble lying, even in such an age as ours. But it was the only thing that had stuck with him from those halcyon years when Gov. Alfred M. Landon was the candidate of the Grand Old Party, which in those days was dedicated to erasing every policy of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, whose electoral success was due to, they thought, Harry Hopkins' chilling mantra, "we shall ... spend and spend and elect and elect." Arguably, the ignorant McCains of this world have no idea what any of this actually signifies; Hopkins' comment is a serious one, and serious matters seldom break through to cliché-ridden minds.

Although I am no fan of the television of my native land, I thought that an election featuring two historic novelties—the first credible female candidate for president and the first black nominee—would be great historic television, yet I should have been suspicious whenever I looked at McCain's malicious little face, plainly bent on great mischief. Whenever Obama made a sensible point, McCain was ready to trump it with a gorgeous lie.

When Obama said that only a small percentage of the middle class would suffer from income tax during his administration, McCain would start gabbling the 1936 Republican mantra that this actually meant that he would spend and spend and spend in order to spread the money around, a mild joke he has told for the benefit of a plumber who is looking forward to fiscal good fortune and so feared the tax man, using language very like that of long-dead socialists to reveal Obama's sinister games.

Advice to Obama: No civilized asides are permitted in McCain Land, where every half-understood word comes from the shadowy bosses of a diabolic Democratic Party, eager to steal the money of the poor in order to benefit, perversely, the even poorer.

So October (my natal month) was no joy for me, as the degradation of our democratic process was being McCainized. McCain is a prisoner of the past. Later, in due course he gave us the old address book treatment: names from Obama's past, each belonging to a potential terrorist. Even from the corpse of the Republican Party, which Abraham Lincoln left somewhat hastily in the 19th century, this was an unusually sickening display.

Happily, physicists assure us that there is no action without reaction.

There were still a few bright glimmers of something larger than a mere candidate of the Republican Party, but Mr. McCain seems to be in the terminal throes of a self-love that causes him to regard himself as a great American hero. From time to time, he likes to shout at us, "I have fought in many, many wars," and, "I have won many of them," but he has, so far, never told us which were the ones that he has actually won, since every war that he has graced with his samurai presence seems to have been thoroughly lost by the United States. Consistency is all-important to the born loser as well as to the committed liar.

So what little fame he has rests on the fact that he was taken a prisoner of war by the Vietnamese—hardly a recommendation for the leadership of the "free world"—and thus aware of the meagerness of his own curriculum vitae, for his vice presidential choice he then turned radically, in the age of the awakening to power of women, to an Alaskan politician; a giggly Piltdown princess out of pre-history.

Her qualification? She has once been mayor (or was it "mare"?) of an Alaskan village and later governor of what had been known as "Seward's Icebox," named for Lincoln's secretary of state, William Seward, who had over the misgivings of many bought all that ice from Russia.

One does get the impression that the senator from Arizona is living in a sort of echo chamber of nonsensical phrases, notions and unreality.

To further add insult to injury, as it were, he describes himself as a "maverick," which one critic in the audience assures him he is not, anyway, like the great Maury Maverick, a New Deal congressman from Texas who was so dedicated to freedom that he allowed his cattle to roam unbranded, freely on the range—a tribute to a time when Texans were freer than now in the post-Bush era.

The critic in the audience said that he was no maverick in the usual sense on the ground that he was simply a sidekick. That just about sums it up: Sidekick to the only president we have ever had who lacked any interest in governance.

As we are going through a religious phase in this greatest of all great nations, I am reminded of Chancellor Bismarck's remark about us Americans in the 19th century when he said: "God looks after drunks, little children and the United States of America."

Copyright © 2008 Truthdig, L.L.C.

How is the chicken cooked?

"I look at these people and can't quite believe that they exist. Are they professional actors? I wonder. Or are they simply laymen who want a lot of attention? To put them in perspective, I think of being on an airplane. The flight attendant comes down the aisle with her food cart and, eventually, parks it beside my seat. "Can I interest you in the chicken?" she asks. "Or would you prefer the platter of shit with bits of broken glass in it? To be undecided in this election is to pause for a moment and then ask how the chicken is cooked."

- Author David Sedaris, on undecided voters

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Every Day, in Every Way, I'm Getting Better, and Better

It's been a couple of weeks. Some hard weeks. Yes, that's right. The mighty Chicago Cubs blew it. AGAIN. The leading offense in the National League. The second best won-loss record in the Major Leagues. Great hitters up and down the lineup. Great pitching. Great manager. It had been 100 years since there last World Series Championship. Cub fans were hopeful. Even I allowed myself a smile, however grim, at the thought of a Cub championship. So.....the first game arrived. Cubs versus the Dodgers. At Wrigley. Cub pitcher Ryan Dempster walks 8 guys. (hasn't walked that many all YEAR!) Cubs lose. Oh well, we've got Zambrano pitching tomorrow night, no problem. Tomorrow night comes. Cubs commit five (5) errors. One by each of the four infielders and one by the bat boy, I guess. Cubs lose. I felt myself sinking farther and farther down. The Cubs lost the third game. It was all hazy to me. I can't recall anything that happened. I just remember they lost and that was that.

So now I'm watching the Phillies. Tears in my eyes. Maybe the time has come to take a break from being a Cub fan. I tried being a White Sox fan, briefly, in high school. It just didn't feel....right. Well, spring training is only fourt months away. So maybe next year......

My dog is laughing at me.

Windy Day at the Farm

Poodledoc,Jr, Ms Ether and I went out to Zephyr farm, where we cooperatively grow organic vegetables with a dozen or so other really nice people.

Today we gathered in the squash. Butternuts, acorns and delicata (not sure of the spelling on that one). Poodledoc, Jr and his friend Seth were busy loading bin after bin of squash into the big white pickup. The seed garlic was tucked away for planting in a couple weeks. A few of the carrots were forked up. There was a sweet smell of the carrot mixed with the sweat smell of the wonderful soil out here at the farm, just south of Stoughton, WI.

The wind was gusting up to 40 plus miles per hour. But the sun was shining. We filled the car with various goods and drove slowly home. All that extra weight. Very satisfying to drive slow and enjoy it. A great day.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Lefties for Obama, Round Two

Published on Thursday, October 16, 2008 by
by Ira Chernus

I've written a lot of columns for Commondreams over the years. But I don't recall any that got as much response as a piece I posted recently urging lefties to support Obama. Many of the responses were heartfelt outbursts of emotion; some of them were surprisingly angry, even venomous, attacks. Hey, I thought we lefties were supposed to be the tolerant ones.

But some of the responses were quite thoughtful, and they call for a response in kind.

Most of the thoughtful writers offered a list of ways the Democrats were quite similar to the Republicans, and they challenged me to give some specific issues on which Dems are demonstrably better than the GOP. Fair enough. So here are just a few highlights. To name all the meaningful differences would take far too long for one column.

Let's start with the big economic picture. Noted economist Larry Bartels has run the numbers for the past sixty years and here's what he found: "Real incomes of middle-class families have grown twice as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans, while the real incomes of working-poor families have grown six times as fast under Democrats as they have under Republicans."

There's no mystery about it. Republican economic policy aims, above all, to protect the interests of the very rich. They make nearly all their money from investments. Inflation is their greatest enemy, because it eats up the profits they expect from their investment. So Republicans regularly throw the economy into recession. Lots of people lose their jobs, which means wages go down, which means inflation stays low.

That's why we had major recessions during the first Reagan administration, the George H.W. Bush administration, and the current Bush administration. Republicans are happy to see the middle class and the poor suffer, as long as they damp down inflation to protect the rich.

On top of that, of course, the GOP gives massive tax cuts to the rich, much larger than the Democrats. That runs up budget deficits. With government having to borrow huge sums, there's more competition for investment capital, so interest rates go up. Working people have to pay more on their mortgages and credit cards, but the rich get better returns on their investments.

Labor unions give huge sums to the Democrats because they understand these significant differences between the economic policies of the two parties. In return, of course, Dems are much more likely to support legislation that protects the rights (and the safety) of workers and helps unions build their strength. Republicans have a long record of supporting laws that gut labor's efforts to organize.

Perhaps the biggest single group of workers who are consistently pro-Democratic is not a union but a professional organization: the National Education Association. Teachers know that Republicans pursue all sorts of strategies for de-funding and weakening public schools. Democrats consistently support public education, which in effect means the right of poor children to get as good an education as the rich. Read rest of article here.

Boston Eye Conference

(cut away view of an eye showing the globe partially filled with tumor. It's not sushi)
I'm out in Boston with my Vet School lab at the ACVO (American College of Veterinary Ophthalmologist) annual meeting. There have been lots of interesting talks. I myself presented a poster, sort of like high school science fair stuff, except we don't get blue ribbons or best in show. My poster concerned feline eyelid tumors. I stood by my poster for an hour or so, and talked to lots of interesting people about my work.

Then tonight we went out for sushi. I had never tried eel before. But I have now. The hair provided an interesting sensation as it slid down my throat. The flavor was wonderful, too. Eels have eyes, as well, but they didn't appear on this particular dish.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Where Have all the Protest Singers Gone?

by Tony Hicks

One would think the time is ripe for an explosion of protest music.

We're witnessing what pundits are calling a historic presidential race at a time when even the party holding the Oval Office admits that a big dose of change is needed. We've been at war on two fronts for years with no end in sight, while there's less than a month to go in the election. The economy appears to be in free fall. The race is close, and the rhetoric is heating up fast as each side lobs verbal grenades at each other almost daily.

So where are all the protest songs, calling for one brand of change over the other?

Protest music is rare from conservative artists, but even the liberals songwriters seem to be sitting this one out.

"People are overwhelmed by the corruption of our government," says Paul Kantner, a founding member of Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, who just released a new Starship record, "Jefferson's Tree of Liberty. "They don't think their vote counts "... people don't have enough faith."

In other words, even if we have two new candidates promising change from an outgoing and unpopular administration, it might just be that musicians aren't feeling they can make a difference, especially after the outpouring of activism in 2004.

That was the year John Kerry had the support of Bruce Springsteen, Pearl Jam and Dave Matthews, among other big-name artists, performing on the "Vote for Change" tour. Linda Ronstandt was grabbing headlines for speaking out in the face of open hostility at many of her shows. It was the year that gave us songs like Ani DiFranco's "Animal," the Beastie Boys' "It Takes Time to Build," and the Roots' "Why (What's Goin' On?)," among others.

Even two years later, just in time for midterm Congressional elections, there was still an echo of the outrage, most notably in Neil Young's "Living With War" record and his passionate summer tour with Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

Some of the stalwarts are still around, such as Bruce Springsteen, doing benefits for Barack Obama. And bands that are almost always political, like Bad Religion, are still addressing the issues. Punk singer-songwriter Ted Leo just wrote and recorded a four-song EP after witnessing the treatment of protesters at the Republican convention, the timing of which made it only available on his Web site. And people like John Legend and Billy Joel have also appeared at events.

But all in all, the desperation that was apparent among artists willing to sing protest songs four years ago is largely absent at this year's political crunch time.

"There's baggage to becoming a protest singer," says Chris Walla, guitarist for Death Cab For Cutie and an admitted political junkie, whose band has played Obama rallies. "Because of the media portrayal of the protests, nobody wants to be associated with it. I don't think it would work with our audience all that well."

Plus, Walla says, there's a strong perception that, unlike Kerry in 2004, Obama doesn't need the help. And there's no George W. Bush in the race to focus on.

"When your candidate is a rock star on his own, why does he need Death Cab for Cutie?" Walla says. "What Obama needs is 'Rednecks for Obama.'"

Nathan Berg, a professor of economics and sociology at the University of Texas at Dallas, is the singer for the Halliburtons, one of the few bands out there continuously making political music.

"It's noticeably more quiet regarding the musical discourse this year," he says. "I think there are those of us who thought 2004 was important and thought things would change. It's hard to see strong rebuttal for pessimism."

Berg speculates that Kerry's loss deflated musicians. They're getting change one way or another this year, which de-focuses years of targeting President George W. Bush.

"My band played at Dealey Plaza on the anniversary of the Iraq war, but I'm feeling my time is better spent speaking as an economist and social scientist," says Berg, whose band has toured Ireland and Germany. "There's actually much more of an anti-Bush and anti-war scene in Europe." There's also some low-level recorded activism, coming at a lower profile from groups like metal band Testament and bluegrass group the Del McCoury Band, an indication of big names laying low this year. McCoury's new record is called "Moneyland."

Kanter says that with each passing year, technological distractions and a corporate media unwilling to take chances make it more difficult for musicians to make a difference.

"People are overwhelmed by modern times," he says. "There's an overflow of information and they become confused. In the '60s we thought we could change the world - and we did change some of it," he says. "People today don't have that hope."

Copyright © 2008 - Contra Costa Times

Friday, October 10, 2008

A Year Later, Creation Museum Claiming Big Crowds

Published on Friday, October 10, 2008 by Associated Press
by Dylan T. Lovan

LOUISVILLE, Ky. - The museum exhibits are taken from the Old Testament, but the special effects are pure Hollywood: a state-of-the-art planetarium, animatronics and a massive model of Noah's Ark, all intended to explain the origins of the universe from a biblical viewpoint.

This Thursday, July 6, 2006 file photo shows an exhibit depicting two archeologists coming to very different conclusions while unearthing the same skeleton, is part of what will become the Creation Museum, near Petersburg, Ky.,(sorry, folks, all I could find was this picture of Noah's ark, shown above). The Creation Museum, which teaches life's beginnings through a literal interpretation of the Bible, has become an unexpectedly strong draw for visitors. More than a half million people, organizers claim, have toured the Kentucky attraction since its May 2007 opening. The Creation Museum, which teaches life's beginnings through a literal interpretation of the Bible, is claiming attendance figures that would make it an unexpectedly strong draw less than a year and a half after it debuted. opening, museum officials said.

For creationists -- Christians who believe the Bible's first chapter of Genesis is the literal telling of the universe's start -- the museum is a godsend (is this a play on words, or what?). Many have returned with family and friends, some from faraway states (like farther than Wisconsin, like, has Sara Palin been there?) arguing it's one of the few with a Christian worldview.

Many scientists say they fear damaging effects on science education when young people tour the museum and fail to square its lessons with what they're learning in school. One display shows humans coexisting with dinosaurs -- despite the two species being separated by 65 million years in most science texts.

"We're depressed, I think," said Dan Phelps, head of the Kentucky Paleontology Society, who toured the museum shortly after its opening. "There's been such a push in recent years to improve science education, but stuff like this still hangs around."

Phelps said he fears some teachers, shying away from the origins controversy, may choose to omit mentioning evolution studies in the classroom.

State education officials said they have seen no sign of students challenging science teachers in their classrooms based on conclusions drawn from visits to the Creation Museum.

"It's not been a huge issue. In fact it's almost a nonissue for public schools," said Lisa Gross, a spokeswoman for the Kentucky Department of Education. "Teachers have been dealing with these things long before the Creation Museum came into being."

The Creation Museum doesn't draw nearly as many visitors as the nation's top science museums, which boast larger facilities and government funding. The Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History in Washington attracted 5.8 million visitors in 2006; the Children's Museum in Indianapolis brought in 1.2 million that year, according to a list compiled by Forbes magazine.

But for its size and budget -- it took $27 million in private donations to build -- the museum has been an overwhelming success, founder Ken Ham said.

The museum in rural northern Kentucky, a 30-minute drive south of Cincinnati, has drawn more than 550,000 visitors in 15 1/2 months, by its own count.

Regular visitors pay $20 for admission, but about 10 percent were admitted for free over the last 15 months, museum officials said. Ham said it draws families, home-schooled children, Christian school groups and even many skeptics. (hey, I'm going next time I'm in Kentucky!!!)

Inside, evolution is replaced with the Old Testament stories of Adam and Eve as the first humans and Noah rescuing the human race from a worldwide flood.

Ham feels the sleek presentation puts it on par with well-funded science museums. Patrick Marsh, who helped create exhibits at Universal Studios in Orlando, was brought in as the museum's director of design.

"We made a decision quite a few years ago, that we wanted to do it first-class ... as good as you would see at museums or Disney World or Universal Studios," Ham said. "It's become an attraction in its own right, regardless of the message that we have here."

One visitor, Bill Michaletz, drove his family from Wisconsin in May. (Isn't there already a Noah's Ark in the Dells?)

"I do believe in creation, that God created it all," said Michaletz, who has five children. "I'm appreciative that there is a place to go for ourselves and our kids, to look at that view." (And, I'm told Bill believes the moon is made of green cheese and, oh yes, the earth is flat....).

© 2008 Associated Press

McCain and the Meltdown

Published on Friday, October 10, 2008 by The Nation
by Ari Berman

The parallels between the collapse of the savings and loan industry in the late 1980s and the Wall Street meltdown of today are unmistakable. Few pieces explain the roots of the S&L debacle--and its relevance today--better than legendary investigative reporter Robert Sherrill's breathtaking 1990 exposé in The Nation, "S&Ls, Big Banks and Other Triumphs of Capitalism."

The section on jailed Lincoln Savings & Loan magnate Charles Keating is particularly memorable. "If any one hustler was the living symbol of the underlying rot of the savings and loan industry as created by Congress and Reagan's biography in the 1980s, it was Charles Keating," Sherrill writes.
A constant in both crises is John McCain. McCain and four other senators (dubbed the Keating Five) intervened to protect Keating from banking regulators. McCain was later rebuked by the Senate Ethics Committee for "poor judgment" and embarrassed by the $112,000 in campaign contributions, trips and gifts he had accepted from Keating. Cindy McCain and her father were also partners with Keating in a shopping mall development in Arizona. In his autobiography, McCain called the Keating episode "the worst mistake of my life."

McCain eventually became a born-again crusader for campaign-finance reform. But he continued to surround himself with corporate lobbyists and push for greater deregulation of the finance industry, missing the greatest lesson from Sherrill's story: "thievery is what unregulated capitalism is all about."

Sherrill's pathbreaking reporting sheds light on all that was wrong with the deregulatory politics back then--as well as on what has fed our current financial crisis. It's worth a second read: "S&Ls, Big Banks and Other Triumphs of Capitalism," from the November 19, 1990, issue.

Copyright © 2008 The Nation

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Lefties for Obama

by Ira Chernus
Published on Tuesday, October 7, 2008 by

If you have decided to vote for a third party candidate for president, or not to vote at all, because you can't stand voting for the "lesser of two evils," this message is for you. Though I'm supporting Obama and the Democrats, I understand and respect your choice.

You may be taking a lot of criticism for standing on your principles. I know how the criticism can hurt. I took the same kind of heat eight years ago as a Ralph Nader supporter in a razor-thin election. I've never regretted that choice. I felt totally comfortable with it in 2000, partly because the outcome was a foregone conclusion in my home state. My vote would not make any difference one way or another.

This year is very different, because in my state the Obama - McCain race is much too close to call. If that's true in your state too -- or if there is any chance Obama might not win your state -- please consider carefully the other big difference between 2000 and 2008. Back then, I failed to imagine how much damage eight years of Republican rule would do. Now, the thought of another eight or even four years of the same seems intolerable.

Imagining what the Supreme Court might look like four years from now under a President McCain makes the thought even worse than intolerable. And if a President McCain were to die in office . . . Well, golly gee, sometimes the good old English language just doesn't got the words to express the horror.

When the greater of two evils gets bad enough, the lesser is so much less that it really is the better choice. So I am out there working for Obama and the Democrats. I won't scold you or look down on you for taking the opposite course. But I'd like you to consider changing your mind.

No, Obama is not the kind of crusader for progressive causes that you and I would like to see lead this country. But he has a different view than you or I might have about how government works. In his years as a community organizer, he learned that you should never expect government officials to initiate change. That's not their job. This is a democracy, and they are elected to do the will of the people, to bend whichever way the political wind blows.

Obama really means it when he says, in effect: "Making change is your job. I want you to pressure me. If you put a lot of pressure on me, I'm willing to bend to your will. But the conservatives are always out there putting pressure on me from the other side. You have to create a political wind strong enough to blow the opposition away and blow your elected leaders to the left."

With Democrats in power in Congress and the White House, the doors of power will be open at least a little bit to progressives. We won't get all, or even most, of what we want. But there will be people in Washington willing to listen to our views. Some of them will be in pretty high places. And they'll know that our movement will get attention -- even in the Oval Office -- if it's massive, well-organized, and highly visible.

McCain and Palin aren't going to move an inch to the left no matter how powerful the political winds are. They'll claim that their victory gives them a mandate for right-wing intransigence. And if they win, the disappointment may take all the wind out of the progressives' sails. After eight years of fighting Bush, who will have the energy left for another four years of the same? A McCain victory might convince a lot of people, across the political board, that we are just fated (or doomed) to have Republican presidents forever.

I'm especially concerned about the huge numbers of young people supporting Obama, thousands of them working full time on his campaign and learning invaluable political skills. If he loses, most of them may be so dispirited that they'll give up on politics altogether for a long time, perhaps forever. If he wins and then doesn't produce the change they want, they may turn their energy and skills to the left, as so many did in the '60s.

And it's pretty predictable that a President Obama would not produce nearly as much change as most of his young supporters want. He has chosen to be a compromiser. He understands how much power conservatives have these days. A president who wants to get anything done must have a working relationship with those conservatives, or else they'll simply block everything.

So he has taken all sorts of moderate stands to let conservatives know that he doesn't plan to shut them out. The alternative is to stand on principle and paralyze the government, insuring there won't be any progressive change at all.

The few changes the Dems would bring may not seem very significant to you. But they could mean a great deal for those who have no voice and no power at all.

Here at home, there are millions of poor people who depend on government programs for their basic needs; Democrats will respond to some of those needs, while Republicans will ignore them and blame the poor for their own suffering. There are nearly 50 million without health insurance; Democrats are at least moving toward covering all the children and most of the adults among them. The number of unemployed grows daily; Obama's talk about giving them jobs, by rebuilding the infrastructure and creating alternative energy technology, won't all be translated into action, but some of it will.

On the other side of the world, people in Iraq are suffering daily under a U.S. occupation that Obama would significantly reduce and perhaps eventually end completely. Around the world there are government leaders eager to talk with the President of the United States, talks that Obama would have but McCain would reject. Then there are all the non-human species who are at risk every day from the Republicans' callous disregard for the environment. Democrats won't save all of them, but they will give many species a better chance to survive.

The voiceless depend on us to speak up for them -- not just on Election Day but every day after that. We have to keep pushing relentlessly to the left. We have to recognize that in politics no one wins all the time. But even a small victory on one issue can make a huge difference for a lot of people, most of them people we will never see. Yet all our pushing for victories will do little good unless Obama and the Democrats win.

Ira Chernus is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and author of Monsters To Destroy: The Neoconservative War on Terror and Sin.