A Philosopher's Blog

Buffer Zones & Consistency

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on August 8, 2014
English: United States Supreme Court building ...

 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In the summer of 2014, the United States Supreme Court struck down the Massachusetts law that forbid protesters from approaching within 35 feet of abortion clinics. The buffer zone law was established in response to episodes of violence. Not surprisingly, the court based its ruling on the First Amendment—such a buffer zone violates the right of free expression of those wishing to protest against abortion or who desire to provide unsought counseling to those seeking abortions.

Though I am a staunch supporter of the freedom of expression, I do recognize that there can be legitimate limits on this freedom—especially when such limits provide protection to the life, liberty and property of others. To use the stock examples, freedom of expression does not permit people to engage in death threats, slander, or panicking people by screaming “fire” in a crowded, non-burning theater.

While I do recognize that the buffer zone does serve a legitimate purpose in enhancing safety, I do agree with the court. The grounds for this agreement is that the harm done to freedom of expression by banning protest in public spaces exceeds the risk of harm caused by allowing such protests. Naturally enough, I do agree that people who engage in threatening behavior can be justly removed—but this is handled by existing laws. That said, I do regard the arguments in favor of the buffer zone as having merit—weighing the freedom of expression against safety concerns is challenging and people of good conscience can disagree in this matter.

One rather interesting fact is that the Supreme Court has its own buffer zone—there is a federal law that bans protesters from the plaza of the court.  Since the plaza is a public space, it would seem analogous to the public space of the sidewalks covered by the Massachusetts law. Given the Supreme Court’s ruling, the principle seems to be that the First Amendment ensures a right to protest in public spaces—even when there is a history of violence and legitimate safety concerns exist. While the law is whatever those with the biggest guns say it is, there is the matter of the ethics of the matter and this is governed by consistent application.

A principle is consistently applied when it is applied in the same way to similar beings in similar circumstances. Inconsistent application is a problem because it violates three commonly accepted moral assumptions: equality, impartiality and relevant difference.

Equality is the assumption that people are initially morally equal and hence must be treated as such. This requires that moral principles be applied consistently.  Naturally, a person’s actions can affect the initially equality. For example, a person who commits horrible evil deeds would not be morally equal to someone who does predominantly good deeds.

Impartiality is the assumption that moral principles must not be applied with partiality. Inconsistent application would involve non-impartial application.

Relevant difference is a common moral assumption. It is the view that different treatment must be justified by relevant differences. What counts as a relevant difference in particular cases can be a matter of great controversy. For example, while many people do not think that gender is a relevant difference in terms of how people should be treated other people think it is very important. This assumption requires that principles be applied consistently.

Given that the plaza of the court is a public space analogous to a sidewalk, then if the First Amendment guarantees the right to protest in public spaces of this sort, then the law forbidding protests in the plaza is unconstitutional and must be struck down. To grant protesters access to the sidewalks outside clinics while forbidding them from the public plaza of the court would be an inconsistent application of the principle. But, of course, there is always a way to counter this.

One way to counter this in a principled way is to show that an alleged inconsistency is merely apparent.  One way to do this is by showing that there is a relevant difference in the situation. If the Supreme Court wishes to morally justify their buffer while denying others their buffers, they would need to show a relevant difference that warrants the difference in application. They could, for example, contend that a plaza is relevantly different from a sidewalk. One might point to a size difference and how this impacts protesting. They could also contend that government property is exempt from the law (much like certain state legislatures ban the public from bringing guns into the legislature building even while passing laws allowing people to bring guns into places where other people work)—but they would need to ground the exemption.

My own view, obviously enough, is that there is no relevant difference between the scenarios: if the First Amendment applies to the public spaces around private property, it also applies to the public spaces around state property (which is the most public of public property).

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For Better or Worse Reasoning in Print

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on March 30, 2013

For_Better_or_Worse__Cover_for_KindleWhy listen to  illogical diatribes when you can read them? I mean, read a rational examination of the arguments against same sex marriage.

This concise work is aimed at presenting a logical assessment of the stock arguments against same-sex marriage. While my position is in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage, I have made every effort to present a fair and rational assessment of the stock arguments against it. The work itself is divided into distinct sections. The first section provides some background material regarding arguments. The second section focuses on the common fallacious arguments used to argue against same-sex marriage. The third section examines standard moral arguments against same-sex marriage and this is followed by a brief look at the procreation argument. The work closes, appropriately enough, with a few modest proposals regarding marriage.

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The Ethics of Spinions (Spinning Minions)

Posted in Ethics, Philosophy, Politics, Reasoning/Logic by Michael LaBossiere on June 27, 2012
English: The CNN Center in Atlanta.

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Being rather interested in politics, I spend a fair amount of time following the news of the day. Not surprisingly, I get to see numerous spinning minions (spinions) working their talking points. In the context of politics, a spinion is a person who takes on the role of presenting the talking points of the ideology being represented. In general, the spinion has two main tasks. The first is to make his/her side look good and the second is to make the other side look bad. Truth is, of course, not really a point of concern. Naturally, there can be spinions in other areas as well, such as business, religion and academics.

One somewhat interesting thing about spinions is that it is often rather easy to tell when a person is in spinion mode. In many cases, there seems to be a certain change in the facial expression, eyes and voice of the person as s/he begins to spin.  This reminds me of the fact that in the Pathfinder role playing game characters can use their perception skill to notice whether another creature’s will is not its own. That is, whether it is charmed, dominated or otherwise being controlled. Being a gaming nerd, I imagine the spinion look is what a person would look like in such cases. More scientifically, research has shown that the brain actually undergoes internal changes when a person is thinking about ideological matters: “Essentially, it appears as if partisans twirl the cognitive kaleidoscope until they get the conclusions they want, and then they get massively reinforced for it, with the elimination of negative emotional states and activation of positive ones.” Given this, it is not surprising that a person’s external behavior would be altered in discernible ways when engaged in spinning behavior. After all, emotional changes are often manifested visibly in changes in behavior and voice. However, my main concern is not with spotting spinions (although there is probably some interesting research to be done here) but with the ethics of spinions.

When I observe spinions in action, what I mainly notice is that they relentlessly present their side in a favorable manner while being equally relentless in casting the other side(s) in a negative manner. In the context of United States’ politics, this spinning has reached the point that any concession to or positive view of the other side is regarded as traitorous. For example, when Bill Clinton spoke of Mitt Romney having a sterling business record, this created a bit of a political storm. I would present other examples, but they are rather rare-in these times it is almost unheard of for one side to say anything positive about the other.

Another disturbing aspect of the ways of spin is that truth and principle seem to be of little importance. Each spinion attempts to construct a narrative favoring his side and damning the other, warping and ignoring facts as needed. For example, the Republicans bashed Obama because the worth of the middle class fell on his watch but they conveniently ignored the fact that this worth had been falling since before Obama was in office. Similarly, the Democrats bashed Romney regarding Massachusetts’ economic woes while Romney was governor, conveniently ignoring facts that went against this narrative.

Needless to say, spinions seem to also have no qualms about making use of fallacies and rhetorical devices in the place of reason. To see this is the case, simply turn to the 24 hour news station of your choice and watch. You might want to have a book on fallacies on hand to catalog all the examples you will see. This is, of course, prudent of them: while it makes me sad, fallacies and rhetoric are far more effective than good reasoning when it comes to getting people to believe.

Grounding this behavior seems to be the idea that what matters is beating the other side. The view seems to be, as Hobbes would put it, that “profit is the measure of right.” This is perhaps most clearly put by Mitch McConnel, namely that the Republicans top priority should be making Obama a one term president. Rather than, for example, working hard to get us out of the depression. While Democrats are not as overt about this as their Republican associates, it is obviously still a factor.

As might be suspected, I regard the behavior of the spinions as morally dubious at best. After all, they engage in willful manipulation of the facts, they employ rhetoric and fallacies to sway people, they cannot acknowledge anything right or good about the other side, and seem to be solely concerned with achieving victory for their side (or the side that pays them).  This spinning has contributed to the high levels of polarity in politics and had made it rather difficult for issues to be discussed rationally and fairly. I would even go so far as to say that this has harmed the general good through its impact on politics. As such, the spinions are a source of considerable moral concern.

One rather obvious counter is that the job of the spinion is to do exactly what they do and this is a legitimate activity. While philosophers and scientists are supposed to seek facts and engage in good reasoning so as to determine what is most likely to be true, this is not the role of the spinion. Their role is rather like that of any spokesperson or advertiser, namely to sell their product and see to it that the competition does not succeed. This is not a matter of right or wrong and truth or falsehood. Rather it is a matter of selling product, be that product soap or a political party. This sort of selling is how the consumer market works and thus the spinions are acting in an acceptable way.

I do agree that parties do have a legitimate right to have people who speak in their favor and against their opposition. However, the spinions appear to present a danger to society similar to that of the sophists. That is, they seem to be focused solely on the success of their side rather than on what is true and good. Since the top spinions are routinely given time on national and worldwide television, they have a rather substantial platform from which to spread their influence. Spinions are often presented as commentators or panelists (and sometimes they are actually presenting the news) which, as I see, creates a problem comparable to allowing corporate spokespeople to advertise their products under the guise of being panelists or commentators. That is, the spinions often seem to simply be presenting political commercials for their side while not having these ads labeled as such. This can mislead people who might think that they are getting an objective report when they are, in fact, essentially just getting a political advertisement in disguise.

A counter to this is that the spinions are presenting the views and talking points of their respective sides and this is not advertising. After all, there will sometimes be opposing spinions spinning in opposite directions on the same panel or in the same segment. Further, the spinions are often presented as being spokespeople for specific parties or candidates.

One reply is that this is still like advertising. After all, networks are happy to sell time to competitors so that a viewer might see an advertisement for Coke followed by one for Pepsi. Also, while some spinions are identified as such, this is not always the case. As such, people do often get misled into thinking that what they are hearing is a matter of fact when it is, in fact, merely spin.

The obvious counter to this is that the spinions are protected by the right to free speech and hence are free to spin away even when doing so is detrimental to the public good and what they say is contrary to fact.

This, I will agree, is true-spinions do not lose their right to express their views (or the views they are paid to express) just because they are spinning. However, the news networks who enable them to spin (or even hire them to spin) are not obligated to provide the spinners with a platform or to let them operate largely free from critical assessment. Obviously enough, having opposite spinners spinning away is not the same thing as having critical assessment of the spin.  In fact, spinning is the opposite of what the news is supposed to do, namely present the facts objectively.  As such, there should be greater effort to contain spin and to ensure that spinners are clearly identified as such. Finally, what the spinions do is wrong-they should stop doing what they do.

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Same Sex Marriage (Once Again)

Posted in Ethics, Politics by Michael LaBossiere on June 29, 2011
May Hansen celebrating the vote on the same-se...

Um, gay marriage or a foursome?

New York recently passed a law legalizing same sex marriage, which once again brought the matter into the public eye. Opponents trotted out the stock appeal to tradition fallacy and also made the slightly better argument that passing the law would have dire consequences.

Although I am in favor of legalizing same sex marriage and think that the arguments for it are compelling, as a philosopher I think I am obligated to consider the best possible opposing arguments.

One stock argument is the appeal to tradition: marriage has always/for a long time been between a man and a woman, so same sex marriage should be illegal. As noted above, this line of reasoning is fallacious. The mere fact that X has been around a long time does not make it right. After all, slavery was an accepted practice for a very long time, yet it hardly seems reasonable to accept that it is correct. Also, the “traditional” marriage that people point to is not, in fact, the traditional form of marriage. Marriage as practiced in 21st century western countries is rather different from what was practiced 100 or even 50 years ago, let alone in biblical times.

A second stock argument is the slippery slope argument: if same sex marriage is allowed, then people will then be allowed to marry turtles, dolphins, trees, cats or iPads.  Since this would be bad/absurd, same sex marriage should not be allowed. Obviously, this slippery slope is a fallacy since the folks who claim these dire results do not make the causal link needed to infer, for example, that allowing same sex marriage will lead to people marrying goats. Also, a slippery slope argument could be made against allowing same sex marriage: if we allow different sex people to marry, the next thing you know, same sex couples will get married and then people will be marrying flying fish. Since this is absurd, by parity of reasoning the original argument would seem to be absurd as well.

A third stock argument is the religious argument, namely that God forbids same sex activities of this sort. One problem is that if the religious argument is accepted as the basis of law, then the same principle would need to apply across the board. So, for example, there should be laws against unclean foods (like lobster) and it should be legal to stone disobedient children to death. Imposing such religious laws would seem far more harmful than allowing same sex marriage. Another obvious problem is that God is a big boy and He gets what He wants. If he did not want people to be gay, there would presumably be no gay people. In any case, if God does exist, surely He’d pop in and let us know what He thinks about a matter so obviously important to Him. At the very least, He’d throw down a smite or burn a bush.

A fourth stock argument is the procreation argument: marriage is for procreation, same sex couples cannot procreate, therefore they should not be allowed to marry. The stock reply is that straight people who do not or cannot have children are still allowed to marry. Consistency would require that if same sex marriage is banned on these grounds, then straight couples who cannot or will not produce offspring must be denied marriage. This seems absurd.

A fifth stock argument is the moral argument: being gay is evil, evil people should not be allowed t0 marry, so same sex marriage should not be allowed. As with the procreation argument, the obvious flaw is that there are plenty of evil straight people and they are not denied the right to marry on this basis. A person who is a convicted rapist, mass murderer, serial killer, and arsonist can still get married. On a less extreme note, liars, cheats, bullies, and petty thieves can also get married. As such, this argument has little merit.

A sixth catch all argument is the consequence argument: allowing same sex marriage will have dire consequence D, inflicting D is wrong, therefor same sex marriage is wrong. This argument is the strongest of the lot and does have a certain appeal. After all, if same sex marriage were to cause dire harms, then it would seem reasonable to ban it on the same grounds that dangerous things like alcohol and tobacco are banned. I mean, rather on the same grounds that dangerous things like cars and junk food are banned. Um, I mean on the same grounds that heroin and driving drunk are banned.

The main problem with these sorts of arguments lies not with the reasoning or the moral theory (consequentialism). The main problem is that they all seem to suffer from false or dubious premises. Some examples include that it has been claimed that allowing same sex marriage will lead to anarchy, that it will destroy marriage, that it will harm children and so on. However, these claims never seem to stand up to scrutiny. That said, if a harm can be shown and this harm outweighs the benefits of allowing same sex marriage, then it could be argued that it should be banned on the basis of the harm principle. However, the harm has to be properly established and it needs to be the right sort of harm. After all, if some people claim that legalizing  same sex marriage will make them very sad, that is not adequate. If it can be shown, for example, that anarchy and chaos will result, then that should suffice.

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Federal Jury Duty (Almost)

Posted in Ethics, Law, Philosophy by mclfamu on May 10, 2011
This is Swampyank's copy of "The Jury&quo...

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As I mentioned in an earlier post, I received a summons for federal jury duty. On my first possible report date, I was not called in. However, I found out last Friday that I was expected at the courthouse on Monday. Naturally, I went. While I have read a few posts about jury duty, I thought I would add my own experiences-if only to provide some specific details to anyone else who happens to be in the Northern District of Florida (specifically in the Tallahassee area).

The jury duty process begins when you receive a letter informing you that you are being considered for jury duty. You will be required to fill out a questionnaire (I did mine online) and then, if you are selected for the next step, you will get another letter saying that you have been summoned. You will then do  another questionnaire that is very much like the first (either mail it in or do it online). The summons will provide you with the location of your court (in my case, 111 North Adams Street) as well as your possible dates. You will need to call in (1-866-4756) the Friday before your first report date. You can also check online. This is actually in your interest to do-when you call (or check online) you will learn whether you need to report or not. In some cases, you might not have to go in at all.

If you do have to go in, they will expect you to show up by 8:00 am, although I did see a few stragglers come in after this time.

As far as how to dress, I received conflicting information. The “brochure” I was sent said that business attire was required-jacket & tie for men. Jeans, knit shirts, shorts, and other casual wear were specifically excluded. I opted to go without the jacket, but did spend 15 minutes learning how to tie a tie (yes, I never learned). Some of the other jurors did dress in business attire, but one person seemed intent on breaking all the dress rules: he had  a knit polo shirt, leather sandals, and comfortable jeans. Other folks were a bit less casual, but still fairly casual. No one said anything-but none of the casual people were actually picked-perhaps they would have been “corrected” if selected. I’m reasonably confident that their mode of dress did not impact their selection, so using that as a strategy to get out of jury duty would probably not work. Also, dressing really outrageously might get you sent home to change or to report on another day.

In terms of what you can bring, weapons are obviously out. Newspapers are also not allowed, although magazines are apparently okay. When you arrive, you will go through airport like security (no body scans though). Just as in the airport, I had to hand over my keys and remove my belt for my trip through the metal detector. I even had to remove my shoes, which seemed rather much. Do your self a favor and don’t bring a lot of metal stuff. My junk went un-scanned and untouched, fortunately.

The brochure and web site indicated a list of specific electronics that could not be brought into court.  However, the automated phone system informed me that no electronics (that includes phones) are allowed. I had been able to bring my laptop to county court, but apparently the federal court is far more restrictive. I did, however, bring some magazines, a book, pens, paper, lunch and water. I’m at old hand at dealing with bureaucracy and its waiting ways.  I have a small messenger bag that is within the purse size range-mainly to keep bureaucrats from preventing me from carrying it-after all, if they allow women to have purses, they would be hard pressed to take my bag. I was allowed to bring it with me into the court, but everyone had to leave behind all liquids and any “exposed” reading material. So, for example, you couldn’t have a book or magazine in your hand or sitting openly under your chair.

Parking in downtown Tallahassee is always a problem, so I made sure I arrived about 20 minutes early. The brochure, summons and web site say to park at a meter (you don’t have to pay) while the web site while the brochure and web site do note that jurors can park in a pay to park area and the court will take care of that. What the documentation does not make clear, but what you will be told, is that the city will ticket you for parking at the meter. The person said that there is nothing they can do about this, but that jurors are supposed to bring them the tickets and they will put them through the traffic court. It struck me as really odd that they could not reach any agreement with the city, but maybe there are some anger issues there.

I didn’t get a ticket-but years of dealing with traffic & parking at universities has taught me a trick or two and I was pleased that the same method applies to the city. I’ll probably need my trick again (which is legal, by the way) so I won’t reveal it here.

If you do get selected to actually serve on a jury, you will be able to park in the court’s lot for free.

I was checked in by a former student-it is always good to see a student who is successful. Once you are checked in, you will spend some time waiting. They did have some drinks available, but no food. After the wait, one of the jury “handlers” will tell you a bit about the process (like how the city is ticketing your vehicle) and then play a well made PBS style video about jury duty on a HDTV. After that, you will divided into two (or more) groups based on how many people can be jammed into an elevator and brought to the courtroom to be seated.

Once there, the judge will go into his/her introduction and then a series of questions (which will vary with the case) will be asked. The lawyers will also have the opportunity to ask questions. The main point of this process is to determine any bias or other unsuitability on the part of the jurors. Since you will be under oath, being honest is the wisest choice. One thing that struck me was that several jurors had opportunities for an “easy out”, but no one took them.  While judges no doubt vary, the judge was careful to ask people if serving would be a hardship for anyone and it seemed that he was genuinely sympathetic person. While no one was ecstatic to be there, everyone took their responsibility seriously. I was, to be honest, impressed with my fellow citizens. Good citizens are, as is often forgotten, a critical part of a truly just justice system and I was pleased to see people stepping up to the challenge.

While people do have valid complaints about the legal system and there are serious problems, you can play a role in making it better if you are summoned.

It was very interesting to see the impact of technology and the current political climate. The judge did ask if anyone had not used the internet (everyone had) and asked about blogging. I was the only blogger, which might have played a role in my not being selected. However, I suspect that the main factors were my being a philosophy professor and, of course,  my tie.

Presumably because of the Tea Party movement, the judge asked if anyone was hostile towards judges, courts or government in general. Interestingly, one person who had noted that he listened to talk radio (Beck and Limbaugh) was questioned by the defense about how that might impact his decisions in the matter at hand. He assured the court that he would only be moved by the evidence.

After the questions were done, we were given a short break while the judge and lawyers conferred about us. After that concluded, the selections were revealed. I was not selected, which was actually something of a disappointment. It would, I think, be very interesting to serve as a juror. However, there seems to be something of a bias against philosophy professors. Given our reputation, this is probably understandable.

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The Republican for 2012 is…

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on April 18, 2011
Governor Mitt Romney of MA

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While I am regarded as a liberal, I do have Republican friends and recent conversations with them have often been about who the Republicans will put up against Obama in 2012. What follows is my somewhat shallow assessment of some of the possible candidates.

While its seems a bit surreal, Donald Trump is actually polling competitively against some of the other likely candidates. He does have some appeal, given his fame and wealth. However, by appearing to take up the birther line it seems likely that he has damaged his credibility among more serious minded voters.  I am with Karl Rove on this point. I don’t think he has much of a chance of getting the nomination. However, I would not count him out completely-just imagine what a Trump & Palin ticket would do for the ratings.

While the liberal media loves keeping Sarah Palin in the news, her standing with Republicans seems to have been steadily declining. While she is a Tea Party darling, I doubt that she can pull together enough support to get nominated as the presidential candidate. However, she clearly has a shot at the VP slot again.

Mike Huckabee has quite a bit going for him, not just his winning first name. He has the charisma and experience to make a solid run. However, he is hindered somewhat by his track record and some voters will be uncomfortable with his religious views. He also has a sweet gig on Fox, which he might be reluctant to give up. However, he does seem to be a far more substantial candidate than either Trump or Palin.

Mitt Romney is doing well in the polls and looks like a movie version of the president, but has to worry about the horrible specter of his success as governor of Massachusetts . As governor he was able to work out a successful health care plan for the state-one that served as model for some parts of Obamacare. He also seemed liberal in those days-no doubt due to the infectious nature of Massachusetts’ liberalism (or maybe due to the lingering effects of Innsmouth). Ironically, Romney will have to distance himself from his past self in order to get the nomination. After all, much of what he did to turn Massachusetts around goes against the Tea Party/Republican agenda today. There is also the fact that he is a Mormon-although Kennedy was able to overcome comparable worries about his being a Catholic.

Michelle Bachmann is a Tea Party darling and seems to appeal to certain base elements of the Republican party. However, her historical errors, lack of understanding of the Constitution, and amazing lies will probably hamper her appeal as a candidate among more moderate Republicans and the general population.But, some folks really love her anti-gay stance and perhaps she can parlay this into nomination success.

In any case, a Bachmann-Palin or Trump-Bachmann ticket would both be ten ring media circuses and supply comedians with material for decades to come.

Off the top of my head, I would say that a Romney-Huckabee ticket would be an excellent choice. They both seem reasonably rational and have significant experience in politics. Plus, Huckabee can rock. There are, of course, some other folks who might throw their hats in. Feel free to bring them up.

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Brown’s Election

Posted in Politics by Michael LaBossiere on January 21, 2010

Scott Brown was recently elected to fill the senate seat left vacant by Ted Kennedy. While Brown has asserted that his victory was the result of anger over Washington gridlock (rather than being about Obama) some are taking his election as a sign. Of course, the sort of sign that it is supposed to be varies based on who you ask.

Some folks see it is a sign that Americans are against the health care reform proposed by Obama. However, this is a rather hasty inference. First, Brown was elected 52% to 47%. If we assume that every person who voted for Brown voted to express their dissent regarding the health care reform and we assume that every eligible voter in Massachusetts voted, then this would mean that only a very small majority of the voters are against the health care plan. Second, even if the previous assumptions are granted this election only reflects the views of the folks in Massachusetts. To  infer from this the general view of the American people would be to fall victim to a hasty generalization. It might also be a biased generalization. After all, the folks in Massachusetts already have their own government health care and they might differ in other ways from the general population. After all, the folks on the right have been known to dismiss the East Coast as not being part of the “real America.”

Some folks see this election as a sign that the Republicans are on the way back. On the face of it, this victory (however narrow) is a gain for the Republicans. After all, they have gained one senate seat and have done so in a state that was generally regarded as a Democrat stronghold. However, the Democrat’s loss might be more of a result of Coakley’s rather lackluster campaign and various gaffes she made (including one that no doubt cost her the votes of some Red Sox fans). Ironically, I suspect that one reason that Coakley lost was due to the mistaken belief that the Democrats could not lose in Massachusetts. One of the best ways to lose is to simply assume you will win.

A bit of irony is that the election the Democrats just lost is the result of the Democrats changing how filling such seats worked. In the past, the governor of the state appointed the replacement. However, when a Republican (Romney) was governor the state legislature changed it so that there had to be a special election. As such, the Republicans can thank the Democrats for making their victory possible. Again.

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