Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Early Voting

[Content Disclosure: 0% Poker, 12% Politics, 45% Local Governmental Services, 67% A Good Idea]

This is the first (presidential) year I have lived in a jurisdiction that allows early voting. I currently vote in Clark County, which includes the first and third largest cities in Nevada (Las Vegas & Henderson; Reno is second). In 2004 just over 80% of registered voters went to the polls in the fall election cycle. Because of early voting almost half of those voters voted early. The rounded figures were: 10% absentee ballots, 40% election day votes, 50% early voting.

Here in Clark County there are eight permanent early voting facilities, most of them in shopping malls. They also have eight mobile teams that moved from site to site each day to set up voting areas at either the normal election day sites or in large grocery stores. It is simply too convenient not to early vote; unless you are still undecided, which actually means you should really not be off your medication.

The early voting here goes on through Friday. They take Saturday, Sunday and Monday to prepare for election day and then everyone gets their last chance, just like the rest of the country, next Tuesday. By comparison: in 2004 just over 271,000 early votes were cast in Clark County. The total on Monday of this week for 2008 was just over 250,000 with four days remaining in the early voting period. Looks like more voters will turn out in '08 than in '04 here, but isn't that expected just about everywhere this year. I mean what would you expect with What's His Name and Who JaMa CallIt running. OK, OK, one political rant per year.

Finally, I am now ready to give my election day prediction. I predict that when you all wake up on Wednesday morning and turn on the early morning talk shows, you will notice the complete lack of advertisements with one nasty asshole calling the other nasty asshole a lying whore. Ah, I will miss the political season; I do so like gilding golden rod and stepping on eternal cockroaches.

P.S. By the way, if you live in a state that does not have early voting, you do realize that a significant portion of your population has been disenfranchised by the more liberal voting laws in states with early voting. Shouldn't someone do something about this inequity? While the logical thing would be to allow early voting in all states, in fact, three lawsuits have been filed in federal court to prevent early voting in any state. We do so like to ban and prevent rather than enfranchise and accommodate.

P.S. #2: The early vote in Nevada (550,000+) was higher than the total vote in 2004.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Quadrennial Political Rant


In America, through pressure of conformity, there is freedom of choice, but nothing to choose from.  -- Peter Ustinov

Thus begins my quadrennial political plea to my friends far and near. In this election, for the first time, I will be able to reach each of you directly via this blog. Also in the past four to eight years I have substantially increased my acquaintances on the right side of the political coin. So my old and true liberal friends will be not be less offended than in past years but at least they will not be alone in shaking their manes at my now thirty-two years of clear political naiveté. Yes, my friends, it has been now nine presidential elections since I first began making the same point I once again put forward to you today.

The two party system in the United States is broken; has been broken and will remain broken until reasonable, thoughtful voters like you take it upon yourself to stop swallowing the patently absurd notion that what Party A offers you is substantively different than what Party B offers.

The litany remains the same:

They both raise your taxes, increase the national debt and spend/waste more of your money. There is no “tax and spend” party. There is no “party of the people”. A belief in such epitaphs is not voter involvement; it is simple being complicit in your own brainwashing.

The Federal Budget never goes down, even adjusted for inflation. Therefore, both parties believe in big government. The very nature of being in power is to maintain power. The appropriation process with its earmarks, pork and special orders is structured to keep legislators in office. The budget process is big government, its use and perversion is the life blood of all federal elected offices including those in congress, who are charged with its oversight. The system is perverted beyond saving.

They both believe in welfare. One believes in it for big corporations, the other for disadvantaged citizens and big corporations. Your only decision is not whether you are for or against handouts, but which handouts you are for.

They both are in the pocket of multi-national businesses and these days they are bought via the campaign contribution laws and loopholes by these same businesses. Every purchase you make in this economy has a tax added to pay for lobbyists in Washington. Lobbyists who may be advocating for programs and policies you say you are against.

Neither has done anything about energy, health care or education. We had gas lines over twenty years ago, yet overall fuel mileage on American made vehicles is less than it was after the first “oil shortage”. Health care costs have gone up 150% faster than the rest of the economy in those same twenty years and insurance coverage has gone down as a percentage of the total health care bill. I have no children and therefore assume most or all of you are better able to draw conclusions on the educational system.

They both wage war. And they both continue to wage wars started by the other party. Since JFK handed Vietnam to Johnson and he passed it on to Nixon, there has been this insane policy of making decisions about war and death based on some unwritten rule that you can’t just reverse the insane warmongering of a previous administration because what would that mean for future presidents powers to maim foreign nationals. Like making them believe they might be held responsible for killing thousands and destroying entire cultures would be a bad thing.

Now you are perfectly right in your righteous indignation about the “other” party. Only I have noticed that just like every other election that 40% of the voters when they listen to the debate do not hear the words or issues but hear instead what will support their guy and condemn the other guy. Another 40% do exactly the same thing on the other side. These are not the actions of a thoughtful electorate but of sheep. By the way the book, A Nation of Sheep by William Lederer, was published in 1967, he also wrote The Ugly American.

People do not vote “for” a candidate, they vote “against” the other guy. After the final debate both Fox and CNN ran a long segment of voicemail responses to the candidate’s performance. I counted 18 callers, all of whom said something negative about the other guy. No one, not one, had a positive thing to say about their candidate. Is this really the result of negative campaigning? Or are the voters so stuck in the two party paradigm that they honestly believe the dichotomy of the two party prison.

So once again let me say. The only reasoned, rational solution is to vote for a third party. Only when tweedle-dumb or tweedle-dumber is elected with less than 40% of the popular vote will who cares & don’t care get the message that the voters actually are upset with same old, same old, same old crap. Haven’t you had enough of this yet?

Now, let me speak to each side separately. To my liberal friends. Yes, I know this guy really excites you, just like Slick Willy did. So I know you are not going to listen—again. But in four years when you are making up excuses for why with a “friendly” congress, nothing still has been done. Perhaps then? You really think that big business will allow congress to shift tax supports from big oil to wind or solar? Well maybe in 2012 you will give my position a fair hearing. I don’t really expect you to not vote for Barack this time, I mean there is a war on right? Need I point out, we had a war too. You do remember Vietnam? Or for my younger liberal friends—Lebanon, Somalia, Yugoslavia, Afghanistan, Iraq.

For my new conservative friends and most of my immediate family. Eight years ago it was you making the “we can’t have four more years of this” argument. Gore was just another Clinton to you. We needed change right? Well guess what. Not only have you had eight years of the White House but the guy is a functional moron. Come on does W. not embarrass you more than Bill’s blowjob? Quite frankly the third party candidates on your side of the ocean are by and large better equipped to actually hold power. Take a look; there have been some very reasonable third party challenges from the right. Well guess what, your guy this time around is quite frankly a vicious, vindictive bastard. His political allies in the Senate have told everyone this but, as usual; no one listens because it’s either him or the other guy. But lo and behold! There actually are alternatives.

You actually do have a choice. A vote for a third party candidate is not throwing away your vote. Furthermore, if you would spend as much time talking to others about the third party option, spend as much time as you do convincing yourself that the choice you are being offered doesn’t actually turn your stomach, well then something might actually get done. Stand up to whichever party does not represent you; the one that takes you for granted; the one you vote for because they call the other guy names. Do you really want to be associated with the unmitigated lies when your guy “approves of this ad”?

Finally, I remind you of the line you have all heard from me at one time or another. ‘When you chose the lesser of two evils, you still get evil.’ I remind you that a rational, reasoning person like you will at some point admit to yourself that they truly do offer you only the choice between two immoral, incompetent evils. Change the system; change the future, vote for a third party candidate. There are more than two roads to the future and many of the alternatives have not been bought and paid for by people you detest.

Postscript: For those who have not received my Presidential Observations in previous election years. Let me assure you that the “tone” of my words do not indicate that I am “in a bad place” or “more cynical than you remember”. My political position has been firmly outside of the myopic two party system since 1968. My presentation has not varied because the system has not changed. Do rest assured that “they” are not more evil now, W. is not worse than Nixon and Barack only appears slightly better than Dukakis, Mondale or Hubert Horatio Humphrey. I wish you all a pleasant and peaceful fall. See you right here in four years, stuck in the same muck, tilting at the same windmills.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Healing Old World Wounds


[Content Disclosure: 0% Poker; 100% Pondering Existence]

"Sleeping or waking, we hear not the airy footsteps of things that might have been."

A few years ago a storm passed through my life. Twas not a random storm, I followed its path and it followed me. Slowly, after it had finally passed, I rebuilt and recovered. We all do that. We rationalize and temper; we forgive and forget; we go on. Wounds heal, memories fade. We also adjust our view of life and the world near and far. I behave differently today when hints of similar storms kiss the horizon. Do we protect ourselves from another turbulence or do we shake off the lingering memories and dance in the pelting rain again? Some things are easier to say than to do.

This past week that storm rumbled once again in the distance. It was as if a long tendril of the wildly spinning maelstrom had passed through me like a cold steel whip. Yet it was tantalizingly warm and stirring. I did not follow the attraction, I know the light and warmth are reflected from a painful and cruel place. In this respect I am saner now, but am I happier?

Friday, October 10, 2008

Thoughts on that Wall Street Thing


[Content Disclosure: 45% Economy; 32% Greed; 12% Criminal Greed; 6% Ayn Rand; 3% Journalism; 1% Poker]

Let me begin by saying that I am not a fan nor a follower of the philosophy of Ayn Rand. I did enjoy her books and recognized them for what they were and therefore what she was. However, she has some great quotes. This comes via The New York Times and methinks is apropos to all that noize you may or may not be following on MSNBC.

“The verdict you pronounce upon the source of your livelihood is the verdict you pronounce upon your life. If the source is corrupt, you have damned your own existence. Did you get your money by fraud? By pandering to men’s vices or men’s stupidity? By catering to fools, in the hope of getting more than your ability deserves? By lowering your standards? By doing work you despise for purchasers you scorn? If so, then your money won’t give you a moment’s or a penny’s worth of joy. Then all the things you buy will become, not a tribute to you, but a reproach; not an achievement, but a reminder of shame.

The NY Times op-ed piece was titled: Diagnosis: Greed and was, of course, about the machinations on Wall Street and in Washington, London, Bonn, Tokyo et. al. My only comment is that laying all of this economic mess at the feet of one of the seven deadly is much too lenient. There were and continue to be criminal failures by those in power on Wall Street, Main Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Like the dictators throughout the world, they will be deposed but not before that have transferred their stolen billions to a safe haven of their own creation. Here's hoping Ayn is right and they will suffer the pangs of guilt and remorse from the decks of their yachts.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Where Have You Gone Joe DiMaggio

[Content Disclosure: 32% Poker; 89% Life; 9% Time, Space, Mostly Time]

Even though I got up five posts here last month, I acknowledge that they were all about poker. The absolute truth about life is that the deadline for the book now looms over the world as I know it. On the positive side of the equation there has been a lot of progress in the past month or so. I am actually going to have two long sessions with Mike tomorrow and Tuesday to read him six complete chapters. Part of our process is to read Mike the final draft of each chapter to get his input and to pick up any missing pieces of the story. After we incorporate whatever we get from Mike this week, that will bring us to 13 complete, done, finished chapters. As soon as Mike returns from his next poker tournament in Niagara Falls, we will read the last 3 chapters to him and then we turn the beast over to the publisher and at some point begin the editing process with them.

My plan is to work a Bay Area trip into the interregnum between turning in the book and beginning the work with the editor. So, all things being equal and The Earthquake doesn't separate California, I hope to be in San Francisco and Sonoma for all or a major part of November. Bay area residents are duly given notice of my impending arrival.