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An Amazing Night

Obama: Reelected.

Kaine: Elected.

Connolly: Reelected.

On any given election having the candidates I supported elected would be more good news than I expect. This is only the second election where my vote for president actually counts at the electoral college.

The good news doesn’t stop there. Perhaps more significant than the above:

Maryland: Marriage Equality passes!

Maine: Marriage Equality passes!

Minnesota: Marriage equality ban fails!

Washington: Looking good for marriage equality!

To win one would have been more good news than I would have expected. To win three (and probably all four) is amazing beyond words!

I was so giddy with excitement last nights news regarding marriage equality that I had to wake Lauri up to tell her the good news. Then it took another 45 minutes before I settled down enough to be able to go to bed.

To all my family and friends in Maryland and Maine: Thank you! You’ve been amazing!

That’s the good news. While there is far more of it than I would have predicted at the beginning of the day, there are still lots of problems.

I won’t bother to list the ones we heard about for months in election ads. We all know what they are. The ones that I mean are the structural problems built into our political system. The fact that the country elected Obama and sent a much more moderate Senate yet sent a conservative House back to Washington points to more years of gridlock. It also points to how political the House districting system is. The party in power sets up the system to stay in power. It will take 3-4 House elections before this structural inequality has a chance to change based on population movement.

If our political parties don’t learn how to compromise our system is in danger of breaking apart. Politicians need to start representing their constituents and not their parties. This is imperative. John Boehner, in particular, needs to look up the word “compromise” in the dictionary and put it into practice.

Boehner isn’t alone. Both parties are playing Brinksmanship with America. This must end. Remember, all of you work for us. Your job is to govern. Your job is not to scramble for power at the expense of the country.

Hopefully this election will put some of the social issues behind us so we can have a meaningful discussion about the issues facing our country.

Obama vs. Romney

I haven’t made many political posts in the last four years. That’s probably a good thing since it means there’s been fewer high profile political attacks on the LGBT community. Last night’s presidential debate, and our political process in general, has me worked up enough that I feel like I need to get some thoughts down.

This has been the nastiest political campaign I’ve ever witnessed. Because Virginia is perceived as as “up for grabs” the airwaves have been flooded with political advertising. Almost all of it is negative. A great deal of it is factually suspect, if not outright lies.

Both sides have been hip deep in this mess though to my admittedly subjective eyes, the Romney campaign and the Republican super PACs have been particularly egregious. There is something wrong when a candidate will say anything to get elected even when it isn’t true. Romney has been particularly bad at this. He wants to blame the economic crisis on Obama and lose the context of just how bad it was when Obama took office. It doesn’t work that way. We should not have such short memories.

Did Obama make some overly optimistic promises that he couldn’t keep? Yes. Has the bleeding stopped and the recovery begun? Also, yes. You don’t fix a decade of bad decisions in four years. The economy does not turn on a dime (pun intended). It’s actually fairly impressive that Obama has done as much as he has given the Republican party’s stated goal when he took office. I think it was John Boehner who said that their sole goal was denying Obama a second term. Not a word about governing or fixing our problems. Getting back power was all they cared about.

Romney has tried to portray himself as a bipartisan consensus builder. In Massachusetts, where he faced a legislature largely controlled by the other party he had to be. However, it takes two sides to compromise. In DC, the Republican Party has forgotten the meaning of the word. That limits what anyone can do. And now they want to blame Obama for not overcoming the roadblocks they threw in his path!

This is not to say Obama is perfect. I did not really agree with the stimulus package he pushed. However, it does seem to have had a positive effect. Not as much as the Obama campaign says and not as little as the Romney campaign says but enough to get the economy growing and promote job growth. It has amplified the deficit though and it is a problem that will take decades to address. Don’t believe any candidate who says it an be fixed in four years.

Whatever Obamas faults are, we know where he stands and what he stands for. Romney says whatever he thinks his audience wants to hear. First he’s for a woman’s right to choose and then he’s against it. Then he’s for making exceptions in the case of rape or incest. Then he’s against it. Then he’s for it again. What does he really think?

First he wants tax cuts for the wealthy. Then he doesn’t. In this case I think the former is actually true but he’s hiding it behind spin. But, how do we really know? He’s changed so many of his positions that he’s like a teflon candidate. He doesn’t stick to any position.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for people changing their positions. People should be open to change, to growth and honest enough to admit when they were wrong. Obama did this when he voiced his support for marriage equality. We knew where he stood before. We know where he stands now. More importantly, we know when and how he changed his mind.

Romney says one thing to a conservative audience and another to a national audience. He then denies the earlier statement or says it was taken out of context or tries to spin it. Which is the real Mitt?

Do we really want to find out what a president believes only when he takes office? Would you buy a car without a test drive? Would you buy a house without an inspection? Romney says, “Trust me. I can fix all our problems,” but when pressed for details he equivocates. Obama gives specifics.

After watching both men for years I still don’t think Romney has any real empathy with what middle class issues are and for those in poverty, well, they could be from another planet so far as Mitt is concerned. He thinks that companies should be free to do what they want and only in that way will they create jobs. What he fails to realize is that three decades of eliminating regulations created an environment where companies could do what they wanted. Their actions drove our economy to the brink of collapse. Romney appears to have failed to learn anything from this.

Romney decries the high number of people getting government assistance. But, he would eliminate the programs that assist them. He thinks that letting companies keep that money would assist them better. I think they would just put the money in their own pockets and forget the rest of us. Look at what many banks did with stimulus money. They were suppose to use it for loans but instead they used it to bolster their bottom line and give themselves bonuses. It’s a clear example of how that part of the stimulus failed to have the desired effect but it is also a perfect model for what Romney’s policies would do.

Government, for all its faults has the goal of serving its constituents. Companies, particularly public companies, exist only to make a profit. Expecting altruism from corporations is foolish. The only reason companies do anything resembling altruism is because of tax write offs and promoting their brand. In neither case is it truly altruistic. Romney’s actions would eliminate the first carrot. Does he really think they will do what little they do now out of the goodness of their heart? Or will they just keep the extra profit? Will the first create jobs or first line their pockets. HIstory says it will be the latter.

Romney says he believes in small government and that government should not be involved in our day to day lives. Yet he seems more concerned about keeping governments influence over corporations small then its influence over people. Don’t regulate companies but do regulate people. He would tell you what medical procedures you can’t have or who you can’t marry but he wouldn’t tell a company to limit its pollution. How do those positions match up with what he says about small government?

In my lifetime we have had three presidents that ran on small government platforms, Reagan, and the Bushes. All, particularly Reagan and George W. actually did exactly the opposite. They ran up the debt and expanded government influence in our lives. How, exactly, will Romney differ from them?

Clinton, the so-called Big Spending Democrat, had the first balanced budget in decades. I’m wondering if we have the right labels on these people.

I’m not trying to characterize Romney as evil or Obama as a saint. They are politicians and they live in a complex world that we all want to oversimplify. By its nature that does not promote clear communication. I am trying to portray Romney as someone who is the wrong choice because I think his policies are simply the same policies that helped create the problems. His constituency is the Rich, the Corporations. He believes that by helping them he helps us. That’s the idea behind trickle down economics. But, that’s all we get, that trickle. They keep the bulk of it. And in tough times, that trickle disappears. Those policies have never worked to help poor and middle class people. There is no reason to believe they will work now.

Romney says he knows how to run a business and that gives him the skills to lead the country. But, the government isn’t a business. There are certainly lessons that government needs to learn from business but you don’t run a country like a business.


As part of our Genealogy Vacation 2012 we stopped in Petersham where my father grew up. Here are some photos from the former farm where he grew up, the old high school (now an elementary school) and the library.

Twiss DNA

I now know a small chunk of one of the pairs of my 11th chromosome comes to me from my great great great great great grandfather, Peter Twiss. He was born in 1718 in Massachusetts.

I recently had my DNA tested in the hopes of connecting with previously unknown relatives. There were two goals in this. It’s always nice to meet new people who have similar interests. But, having DNA validation of a relationship documented by paper is a nice confirmation that the paper is correct.

The challenge is that while DNA can tell you that you are related to someone, it doesn’t tell you how you are related. You need to dig through the trees yourself and find out where they overlap. If your tree isn’t deep enough or broad enough then finding that overlap may be impossible.

That’s been the problem for DNA matches on my mom’s side. We can trace our trees to Sicily but I don’t yet have enough breadth to the tree to find a connection. For my father’s side there’s more hope. Most of his ancestors have been in America for at least 200 years and some are documented back to the beginning of the 1600’s. Though I don’t have as much breadth to the tree as I’d like I do have some.

As it turns out I had just enough to find my match with someone. Our tree overlapped at one point, a woman named Elizabeth Twiss who married John Giles. Elizabeth Twiss was the sister of a Peter Twiss (b. 1718) who was my fifth generation great grandfather.

I contacted the match and she agreed that this was the likely connection. This makes us 7th cousins, a relationship much more distant than the 4th cousin predicted by the matching software. The odds of us having such a large amount of common DNA from such distant ancestors is not impossible though the odds are against it.

For me it confirmed a section of my tree where the paper trail was particularly thin. If I only ever confirm one connection via DNA this was an incredibly useful one to validate.

I now know that if I match someone else on that particular segment of chromosome 11 that I either match to someone on that line between me and Peter Twiss or the person is a match on my mom’s side but odds are surnames and other tools will show which fairly quickly.

I definitely need to broaden my tree and document sibling lines more completely. The odds of finding a common ancestor depend on having enough sibling info. I’ve always entered sibling info when I had it but now I need to go document the children of those siblings and follow the lines forward for a few generations to create enough “hooks” for the matches to catch.

It’s A Small World

It’s only been a few years since I learned that I had any ancestry in Maine. My paternal grandmother was born there but I had always incorrectly assumed she was born in Massachusetts since that’s where she was when I came on the scene. That turned out to be a bad assumption as both her parents have fairly deep Maine roots for as far as I’ve been able to trace them. I don’t know how any of them got into Maine, whether it was coming south from Canada or heading north from elsewhere in New England.

My paternal grandmother’s mother was named Helen Knight (or sometimes Fannie night; I’ve never been able to determine which was the first and which was the middle name). I learned who she was in mid-2009. Lauri mentioned that one of her mother’s best friends was named Knight and wouldn’t it be funny if I was related to them.

It turns out she was right. It I am related to them! The husband of Lauri’s mother’s best friend is my second cousin once removed. I just nailed down the connection last night. My cousin’s grandfather, Arvander Knight, is my great grandmother’s brother. Their parents were William Knight and Elizabeth Warren.

What makes this even stranger is that I was almost related to them on two lines: Knight and Marson. Arvander seemed to have bad luck with wives. He married three times. My cousin is descended from the second wife, Annie McCloud. However, Arvander’s first wife, a woman named Rose Alice Marson was the brother of John Franklin Marson. John is significant here because he married Helen Knight and the pair of them are my great grandparents.

Arvander was physically separate from Annie in both the 1900 and 1920 census (I haven’t found him in the 1910 census). By 1930 he’s in California married to his third wife. It was only by working with some information provided by my cousin’s wife that allowed me to connect Annie and Arvander together through their children’s movements. Once I had that connection everything else fell into place. We called the newly found but already known cousins and confirmed some data with them.

I found a cousin I’d met a year ago and had heard of for two years before that. If it hadn’t been for the connection between them and Lauri’s mother I’d have never known they were there to look for.

Talk about a small world!

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