Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What do you mean I just voted for Mike Gravel?

Far gone are the days when you could walk around proudly with an "I voted" button the day after performing your most sacred democratic duty on election day.

No, those of us lucky enough to live in one of 15 Florida counties that have bought voting machines from Election Systems & Software were given an "I voted touchscreen" sticker at our polling places today. So I got to stride confidently out of my precinct today, needing only to look down at the new decoration on my lapel to ensure myself that my voice had been heard. Whether it was heard well enough to decipher "Barack Obama" from "Pat Buchanan" is anyone's guess. It is almost but not quite as much of a scarlet letter as an "I voted butterfly ballot" sticker would be. Ultimately, the state would have been a lot better off investing in "I voted, probably" stickers a long time ago, since touchscreens, like butterfly ballots and the index cards used by the Soviet Politburo, are going to the scrapheap of discarded voting methodology, much to the dismay of fans of Filipino sweatshops.

That's right. Florida has mandated a switch to optical scan machines, which means we'll need new stickers. So maybe there's hope for the Filipino sweatshops after all. I'm fairly certain that if we don't get stickers, there will be some way we voters can be used as free billboards for corrupt, exploitative and fundamentally flawed mechanical manufacturers. I shudder to think of having to get "This vote brought to you by Ford" tattooed on my forehead in a few years. At least they could make it a foreign automaker, you know? Not to sound as though I don't appreciate American-made products, but I'm pretty sure as soon as I get the word "Ford" put on my body I will immediately lose the ability to run. Within a day or two I expect I'll only be able to lurch forward furtively every 15 or 20 seconds while making a troublesome clicking sound. Have you driven a Ford lately?

So with or without the aid of shady voting machine companies, Hillary Clinton won all the Democratic nondelegates and John McCain claimed a victory that let it be known that institutionalized cannibalism may fly for a little while in Cambodia, but Americans aren't quite ready to accept it just yet. What, you don't think Mitt Romney eats babies? Check out his health care plan. Even better news is it looks like Jeff and I were wrong about Giuliani. That means it might finally be Sept. 12, 2001 in the Republican party. Well, welcome to the future guys. Hope you enjoy your stay. Feel free to use the jetpacks and hover-cars as soon as you remember you're still six and a half years behind the times. And that's just from a foreign policy standpoint. Well, good luck in Iraq, and say hello to the Taliban. Maybe you guys can talk about your 2,000 year old social positions and find some common ground. The rest of us will be waiting, but we won't be holding our breath -- we've got a whole set of new stickers to play with!

Monday, January 28, 2008

It's all about the O

Since declaring my support for the John Edwards campaign, I've begun to vacillate regularly between his old-school progressive screeds and the new, post-Civil Rights Era, post-1990s, post-Bush, post-modern, post-script, post-partum, post-brand cerals, post-no bills, ex-post-facto rhetoric of Barack Obama. Yesterday may well have been a tipping point.

My sister had a run-in with the Edwards people, who trespassed their way into her carport, where she felt they most certainly should not have been, and where they left some campaign materials on the eve of the primary in South Carolina, where she lives. She also very nearly had an encounter with Obama at a restaurant where he was rumored to be stopping just hours after he learned of his 28-point victory. She left after it became apparent he wouldn't show.

But these personal experiences once removed aside, it has become apparent by Obama's stirring victories in Iowa and South Carolina and more strikingly by the distant, discouraging third-place finish Edwards had last night that it is time to back a new horse in the horse race. For better or worse, I'm buying into the idea that Obama's words may harbor as much political prowess as promise, that he can bring us closer to true cultural and economic equality and that he is the one man who can stop a Hillary Clinton nomination, a subsequent election of another neocon and the continued festering of America and the world. In other words, help me, Obama-won; you're my only hope.

So now I won't have to agonize in the voting booth Tuesday in the Florida primary election. I can cast my ballot with a clear mind and purpose, knowing deep down in my heart that maybe, just maybe, the touchscreen machine I use will not misinterpret or discard my vote. It is a uniquely American experience, after all, to stride with the dignity of knowing there's a chance, however great or small, that I may or may not have just participated in the democratic process. Someday soon my country may run as efficiently and effectively as Canada, or Norway, or even Slovenia. And that, my friends, is a stirring reminder of just what it means to live
here in the good ol' U. S. of A.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Always look on the bright side of life ...

These presidential primaries have sure been riveting, don't you think? I, myself, can't wait for the next manu- factured race-based row, mindless "debate" or camera shot of glass-eyed, fervent and quite possibly clinically rabid supporters at a post-caucus rally. Can't you sense my enthusiasm whenever I catch word of one of these events as I run pell-mell to the bathroom to puke?

William Shakespeare had a line of some repute about that which was "Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing." Simon & Garfunkel's were more specific about "going to the candidates debate -- laugh about it, shout about it when you've got to choose, every way you look at it you lose." It's not that these lines-come-axioms ring entirely true, as there are a few lessons to be learned from this early election season, and it's nonetheless important to keep a wide eye on one's democracy whenever it's in action. Yet the single most pertinent and lasting impression one can take from the sound and fury of Iowa two weeks ago to the laughing and shouting of South Carolina and Nevada today is that we're careening toward a grim and brutal Giuliani presidency.

You wouldn't know this from reading the New York Times on Sunday. In the South Carolina wrap written by Michael Cooper and Megan Thee, the lone mention of the neo-cons chosen one is in this graf:

"The campaign now heads to Florida, where Mr. McCain faces another challenge: Rudolph W. Giuliani, who has been advertising heavily and campaigning nearly nonstop there. His campaign hopes a win there will rescue his faltering candidacy."

This is not to suggest the Times is unaware of Giuliani's strategy, to sit out the early, small-state primaries to concentrate on the big three of Florida, California and New York. Yet today's story is a classic example of what happens when you fail to employ proper context in journalism. John McCain's victory is ultimately less symbolic of his redemption in the state where he had been mauled by Karl Rove's sleazeball smear tactics eight years ago and more about a further muddled Republican field that has failed to produce a clear favorite in the early going and therefore created a gaping opportunity for the ascent of Giuliani, the latest darling of the very political machine that did in McCain in 2000.

The news from Nevada, where Hillary Clinton turned back Barack Obama yet again, leads to the same conclusion. Clinton is the torch bearer for the Democratic Leadership Committee, an arm of the Democratic Party that has as much grip, if not more so, on their party as the neocons have on the Republicans. As beloved as she is by the cowardly Blue Dog Democratic braintrust, she has long been reviled for a myriad of reasons by right-wingers of all stripes. There is no one for whom the Republican noise machine is more prepared. The same attacks that Rush Limbaugh, Rupert Murdoch and their like propagated against Bill Clinton, the endless mass-media screeds that brought about a needless impeachment for transgressions far less significant than those who had occupied the oval office 10 or 20 years earlier, or five years later, are once more in the quiver. The first name may have changed, but the Clinton name, and all its connections and all its achievements and all its embarrassments, for all it has meant to so many people, is back. And it's just what the Republicans have been waiting for. If they could impeach her husband on specious claims that pale in comparison to the unpunished high crimes and misdemeanors of George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, the Republicans can most certainly shove Giuliani, who is just as dangerous, just as petulant, just as ignorant and just as unfit for the presidency of the United States as Bush, past Hillary Clinton and into the White House.

And it is happening before our eyes, whether we choose to open them or not. As much as I'd like to cringe and squint them closed, I can only watch in dread and horror. And in realization that there is still a chance that I'm wrong. In realization that the people hold the power, and all government exists at the will of the people. In realization that the standard of life for most Americans, worsening progressively for 30 years now, must only go so low before even the most fatalistic amongst them will begin to wonder what can be done to take destiny into their own hands. As those who have hijacked the democracy become increasingly brazen in their audacity, the solution that is knowledge, thought and ultimately involvement will become ever more obvious.

That is apparent to me, and that is why I'm working on this campaign. Sure, the room that comes with the gig is nice, and necessary, but to contribute to that which I find vitally important for the well-being of my community, my culture, my society, my country, my planet and myself is the true passion and meaning of life.

By the way, now that I've discovered the meaning of life, do feel free to worship me as a deity. Hey, if it worked for Monty Python, why can't it work for me?

Sunday, January 13, 2008

You can feel safe again: This post is 100 percent Japanese-baseball-clip free!

Hello again, cyberpeoples! Did you enjoy a week of the bizarre Japanese baseball video as the top post on the blog as much as I did? If your answer is "I enjoyed it about as much as a root canal without anesthetic," then yes, you enjoyed it exactly as much as I did. What can I say guys? A man with two jobs gets busy. (Oh, I'm sorry, have I used this excuse before? Like, 10,000 times before? I'm sorry. My brain shut down about two-thirds of the way into that Japanese baseball video, causing me to lose most of my memory. My sincerest apologies! Now will someone please help me remember where I live?)

There's plenty going on right now I can talk about, like ...

1. Hillary's back!

Chuck's take: I defer here to my friend Jim, who summed it up succintcly in a text message sent about 10:30 p.m. the night of the primary -- "I hate everyone in the state of New Hampshire right now."

2. The NFL Divisional Playoffs

Chuck's take: Always the best weekend of football. And every year I have something I'm obligated to get done this weekend. This weekend needs to have stronger promotion behind it, so people will realize its actually better to schedule key work and social engagements involving football fans the weekend of the Super Bowl. It's impossible to get anything else done on a weekend that four titanic football games take place at 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Saturday and 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. on Sunday. Unless you want to do something early on Saturday (and if you do, I doubt you have many friends), I'm booked. Super Sunday is quite the opposite. Unless you want to do something on Sunday night ... well, who does anything on Sunday night? (And again, if you do, you should realize most of the people you know quietly resent you, and when you're together with a group of friends and you get up to go to the bathroom, that awkward silence that follows when you return to the table is indeed because they were making jokes at your expense while you were gone.)

3. The News-Press editorial that defends the two-party system

Chuck's take: It's always comforting to know that ideas dismissed as mistakes, flaws and excuses for the nefarious will always have a place in mainstream media. And it's comforting to know where that place is, so I can avoid it.

All right, I'm cutting this short. It's time to go to work. I could go on a little bit longer and cut into my grooming, dressing or driving time, but my coworkers just aren't ready for pantsless Chuck yet. Pity.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

What I learned from a 25 year old Japanese video

From YouTube:

After watching this for about five minutes, I settled on three conclusions:

1. Do not mess with Steve!
2. Don't trust whitey. We Americans are a belligerent lot. Or maybe we just look funny on Japanese blooper reels. One of the two.
3. Japanese baseball simply must be shown on American television, and not just as replacement programming during the writers' strike. We're missing out on way too much entertainment here. Plus, they've got team names like the Nippon Ham Fighters and the Hiroshima Carp. How could you not root for a team named after a placid, ubiquitous and easily catchable fish from a city most famous for being hit with a nuclear bomb? Say what you will about the long-suffering and meek-sounding Cubs, but Wrigley Field was never a fallout zone.