Thursday, July 29, 2004

Yes, those are real!

Does this really need a caption? Posted by Hello

What you are looking at is a very real piece of Clinton memorabilia. Sit down and let me tell you about it...

On October 27, 1992, a certain Arkansas governor named Bill Clinton came to Lafayette, LA to talk about running for some office or another. His appearance was the culmination of a Cajun-dance party known in these parts as a "fais-do-do." "Fais-do-do" is a Cajun-French term that means, literally, "go to sleep," originating from the fact that these parties went on all night and made you sleepy. The featured band was Wayne Toups and Zydecajun (or was it Steve Riley and the Mamou Playboys? I always get those two confused).

Anyway, because my father was working for the local Clinton campaign here, he was one of the main coordinators for the event. This allowed my mom and I to get special passes to stand directly in front of the lectern with the most fanatical Democrats that this Republican-leaning city could muster. We were all given miniature American flags to wave; I also managed to finagle a bumper sticker from an NEA representative. Much to my surprise, only a handful of protesters were there. Many of them blew duck whistles while displaying "Clinton ducked the draft" posters. Ha freaking ha.

Night had fallen by the time the big man arrived. I don't quite remember what he said, but I remember thinking that he had a hell of a lot more stage presence than George Bush (hell, he even upstaged the band, something that's very hard to do in the Cajun heartland!). Following the speech, I nearly met an early pre-voting death as described below in the Secret Service column. After shaking Clinton's very HUGE hand (and repeatedly banging my head for not bringing a camera), I watched as a representative handed him my NEA bumper sticker to autograph. I still have it in a secure location to this day, and will post it as soon as I can figure out just where that secure location is.

As for the tag shown above, it is the security pass my dad wore for the event. On the back is the Clinton-Gore logo along with the phrase "Laissez les bon temps rouler!" ("Let the good times roll!"). My dad says he designed the tag, which I think even Clinton's people had to wear. Naturally, Dad had his tag signed by the Big Dog for posterity. The two allegedly talked for awhile, and given both men's propensities for going on and on and on, I fully believe it.

On those days when Dad and I are trying to top each other, he can always screech me to a halt by saying, "Yeah, but have you ever talked to the president?"

"Yeah, Dad, but did you talk to New Orleans Saints head coach Jim Haslett and forget to tell him your name?"

Me with Coach Haslett, 5/16/03  Posted by Hello

"And don't forget that time I sat in Knight Rider!"

Me, my brother and KITT, 1985  Posted by Hello

As if I ever had a chance...Clinton's still the king!

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

The Electoral College: Disaster 101

Here's a column that I hope to publish in the Vermilion closer to the election. Oyster expressed to me his support for the Electoral College, and so I promised him a look at this. I won't keep him hanging any longer (and I'm sure he was just holding his breath waiting...ha ha...). Oh yeah, I should probably mention that this is far from done. In fact, just to give you some insight into the writing process, I wrote much of the first paragraph probably a year before the rest of it. Sometimes you have tidbits that just don't fit with anything else, you know? But once you are finally able to connect it to a larger point, you get that warm sense of accomplishment. Kind of like when you pick up something with your toes.

The United States of America is a democracy only in theory. Very few institutions reflect this mode of government; the military, corporations, bureaucracies, churches and families operate under a structure of top-down management, with a few people or offices setting the agenda and using the bottom rungs as pawns to attain these means. Parents scream with fervor to their unruly kids, “This house is NOT a democracy!” Republicans and libertarians gladly remind us that “the United States is not a democracy but a republic,” as if that somehow justifies worship of our leaders. The people at the bottom of these pyramid schemes have no choice but to follow orders and have no voice whatsoever. All that’s left in terms of democracy is elections, and even those have come under scrutiny.

Still, we talk a good game about “the will of the people.” Except for the small fact that WE DO NOT VOTE FOR PRESIDENT! You think Election Day is on Nov. 2? Guess again! It’s actually on Jan. 6. And no, this is not one of those oh-so-hysterical Republican jokes about having all of the Democrats vote on Wednesday. No, this particular joke is called the Electoral College.

You have to love the Electoral College. We, the United States of America, supposedly the hallmark for free and fair elections by, of and for the people, hold tremendous support for a system that is in fact the least democratic or republican thing imaginable.

So, you might ask, what exactly are you doing in the voting booth? Look carefully. When you pull your lever for your chosen candidate, you are actually voting for the handful of names listed in fine print underneath. These people are called “electors” and they are more or less local; in fact, you may even know one or more of them. When you vote, you are voting for them to go to Baton Rouge on Jan. 6 and vote for your candidate. Only the electors for the winning candidate in your state will cast their votes.

Nationwide, there are 538 total votes, one for each member of Congress. Want to know the best part? THE ELECTOR IS NOT AT ALL OBLIGATED TO VOTE FOR THEIR PLEDGED CANDIDATE. Granted, most of the people who choose to serve in this position are so partisan that they make me look like a swing voter; however, change has been known to happen… “One man, one vote,” indeed. More like, “One state, one vote.”

What the Electoral College succeeds in doing is heightening the drama. Us Americans, we sure do like our drama! Remember that good old Reagan Revolution in 1980, when Ronald Reagan trounced incumbent Jimmy Carter 489-49 in the Electoral College? Man, you talk about a blowout! Except that it really wasn’t—the popular-vote count was much closer; Reagan amassed 43,898,770 votes to Carter’s 35,480,948. That’s 50.8 percent to 41 percent. Hardly a landslide. And those numbers shift depending on the source.

Likewise, Reagan whipped Walter Mondale in 1984 by the largest EC margin in history, tied with Richard Nixon over George McGovern in 1972. Of 538 electoral votes, Reagan nabbed 525, while Mondale grabbed a lucky 13. Not bad for a race Reagan really won 59 percent to 41 percent (54,450,603—37,573,761)!

Defenders of the Electoral College claim that it keeps the whims of the public in check. Yeah, wouldn’t want the public to decide, now would we? So much for the old adage that people get the leaders they deserve.

As a political-science professor once pointed out to me, “If you’re a conservative and you live in New York, your vote’s never going to count!” He did have a point. This works both ways and thus is yet a further argument for abolishing the diploma mill known as the Electoral College.

Fortunately, the Founding Fathers were smart enough to leave most elections to the popular vote. We only use the Electoral College for the frivolous presidential elections. Whew! I’d hate to see it being used on something important, such as on “American Idol.”

Thursday, July 01, 2004

Religious right gets one wrong

James Dobson of the notorious Focus on the Family is back with another call to action. A very old one, apparently, with a twist that's only a year too late! Guess it all blurs when your agenda is to turn America into a gigantic church.

Apparently we are to be allowed to watch TV programs that use every foul word in the English Language, but not the word "God."

Guess they don't watch PAX TV!

CBS discontinued "Touched by an Angel" for using the word God in every program.

"Touched by an Angel" ran for NINE YEARS, from 1994-2003. That's a lot of God for such a supposedly decadent network. What probably happened is that this rare long-running show was nearing its logical end. Or maybe it had low ratings. I doubt its cancellation had a whit to do with CBS deciding that "Hey, what this network needs is to piss off James Dobson!" Though that, I admit, would be reason enough for me.

Madeline Murray O'Hare [sic], an atheist, successfully managed to eliminate the use of Bible reading from public schools a few years ago.

Um, no. First off, religious expression has never been illegal in public school. What O'Hair and many others petitioned for was the end of FORCED prayer. A huge difference! Second, this is not some new effort. O'Hair (along with her son and granddaughter) was kidnapped and killed in 1995, and the bodies weren't found until 2002. As happy as I'm sure you guys are about that, it proves that the effort to end forced religion is not just the by-product of an athiest-fringe group.

Now her organization has been granted a Federal Hearing on the same subject by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in Washington, DC. Their petition, Number 2493, would ultimately pave the way to stop the reading of the gospel our Lord and Savior, on the airwaves of America. They got 287,000 signatures to back their stand! If this attempt is successful, all Sunday worship services being broadcast on the radio or by television will be stopped. This group is also campaigning to remove all Christmas programs and Christmas carols from public schools!!

If any one of you thousands of petition-signers bothered to do a Google-search on "Petition 2493," the first entry would tell you that it is an urban legend. This isn't even a new one; it's been around since 1975! Proof positive that the religious right relies on half-truths and hysteria to further its agenda.

Together we can make a difference in our country while creating and for the lost to know the Lord.

Lost? Hey, I'm not the one stuck in 1975!

Please do not sign jointly, such as Mr. & Mrs. Each person should sign his/her own name.

Aw, isn't that so cute? If any wife I might have EVER refers to herself as "Mrs. Me," I will immediately get a divorce!