Saturday, October 20, 2012

Civics Tested

If you look underneath the title, Shadow of a Doubt, on top, you'll see a none-too-brief description of what this blog's all about. Everything, essentially.  But the first three topics are "Social commentary, cultural commentary, political commentary..." When I first started this blog in the spring of '08, though all three were mentioned, it was pretty much political commentary all the time. The reason being, 2008 was an election year, and politics was my muse. The election was always on my mind. I wrote about Hillary. About Obama. About McCain. About Biden and Palin. About the debates. I was vigilant. Whatever hat was thrown in the ring, I'd check for lice. Whatever babies were kissed, I'd check for mono. If any backroom deal was being made, I'd make sure it wasn't from the bottom of the deck. If any mud was slung, I'd make sure it wasn't fertilized--by a bull.

All this was four years ago. Now, it's 2012, another election year, and I'm shocked to find I haven't written about it at all. Why have I been so remiss?

Much of it has to do with time, and the lack thereof. I'm working some unusual hours now, and I'm not at a computer as often. For small things like "Quips and Quotations" or "In Memoriam" it's not really a problem, but the essays that form the heart and soul of this blog (even if nobody reads them) now take much longer, sometimes three whole weeks instead of just one as before. Now, if I'm writing about some old movie or TV show, it doesn't matter. Old is old, and it will still be old after three weeks. But politics, current events, are about the here and now. If I had written about, say, Mitt's dissing of the 47%, it might have not been posted until two weeks after the other 53% percent decided the election. That essay would have been about as relevant as MySpace.

It's not just time, though. Over the past three years, this blog has evolved into an exploration of pop culture, especially past pop culture. That doesn't always rest easily with the politics. If I had all the time in the world to write, I'd probably have three blogs. One devoted to pop culture, one to politics, and the third to personal reminiscences and the like. As it is now, I try to shove all three of those things into Shadow of a Doubt (with a few crumbs tossed every now and then to the otherwise famished Ancient Celluloid.) Now, all three do come from the same brain, same mind, same sensibility. For instance, I saw my recent recent essay on Welcome Back, Kotter as being vaguely left-wing. But I don't expect you to find it left-wing, right-wing, left-leg, or right thigh. Not at the risk of you getting indigestion and then calling the health inspector to check this place out.

OK, in the above paragraph, I just revealed which way I lean politically. Yes, I'm a liberal, progressive, lefty, bleeding heart, pinko (just don't call me a communist; I strongly believe the Five Guys hamburger chain should remain in private hands. I don't want the government messing with those toppings!)

Fear not, conservative readers (I know I have at least one. Maybe I'll hear from that person in the comment section.) I 'm not about to spend the rest of this essay trying to convince you to vote for Obama instead of Mitt. I doubt if you're even persuadable at this point. I just felt I had to get my political ideology out there, or else the rest of this essay would become much too abstract to make sense. It would be like searching for a naked albino in a snowstorm.

I'm also a Democrat. The difference between being a Democrat and a liberal or a progressive or a lefty or a bleeding heart or a pinko is you have to register to be the former. The Democratic Party is supposedly entrusted with representing the liberal point of view in government, and compared to the other side--the Republican Party--they do just that. Except they don't. Not always. Or they do it long after liberals and progressives have moved on to other things. I don't have a problem with that. I understand political realities. What bothers me--and makes it a bummer to write, even think, from the liberal point of view at times--is that the Democratic Party, often for reasons of bald strategy and no other, gets to define liberalism.

I'll give you one example. After 9/11, President Bush's approval rating shot up spy drone high, and he was hailed a great leader for simply being the leader when the whole, sorry thing happened. To counter this, the Dems dreamed up the Department of Homeland Security. When I first heard that a department of that name was being proposed, I thought to myself, isn't it already the Pentagon's job to secure the homeland?  Of course, in spite of all the money thrown at it in the previous 50 years, the Pentagon couldn't even secure itself on 9/11, much less the rest of the homeland. But this new department wasn't going to involve the Pentagon, nor NORAD, nor the CIA, nor the FBI. Instead the idea was to take a bunch of agencies that theretofore has little to do with each other, such as Customs, the Secret Service, the Coast Guard, the INS, FEMA and the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, and put them under one roof. This way, in case of an emergency, instead of federal workers having to take cab rides all over the District of Columbia, they could just stroll down a hallway. Something like that. So, if Democrat = liberal, then I guess the Department of Homeland Security stands as one of liberalism's crowning achievements in this still-new century, for all the good that did waterlogged New Orleanians after Hurricane Katrina. Yes, you could, and should, blame Bush for putting an inexperienced and incompetent political hack in charge of FEMA, but the fact that it was now part of a larger Department of Homeland Security didn't prevent such incompetence from taking place. Really, when the department was being proposed, the Republicans in Congress had every right to attack the Democrats for creating yet another bloated, federal bureaucracy. Instead, for political reasons of their own, they went along with it this time.

Another problem with Democrats = liberal, is that Democrats running for, or already in office, don't like to be, and don't like voters to be, reminded of the "= liberal" part. Both Presidents Clinton and Obama, either themselves or through their spokesmen, have on occasion dissed liberals, some of whom have been rushed to the hospital for emergency tongue surgery after biting down too hard in the name of party loyalty.

It's enough to make some liberals pine for this Jill Stein chick as a third-party candidate. Actually, everybody of every political persuasion occasionally pines for a third-party candidate, if not necessarily for Ms. Stein. Earlier this year saw the Unity08 movement for disaffected centrists. It fizzled when people saw movement spokesman Sam Waterson talking about it on TV and assumed it was a commercial for TD Ameritrade. Something like it could still pop up in the future. Until ten, maybe 15, years ago, I considered myself a centrist, so I know where those people are coming from. They don't want the boat rocked, as the liberals would do, but also don't want that same boat to turn around and head back, as the conservatives would have it do (in case you're curious, I stopped being a centrist once I realized the boat's compass could be tampered with.) Even some conservatives unhappy that the Republican Party isn't moving fast enough at privatizing turning lanes may want a third party.

But the math is against it. Contrary to popular belief, the American form of democracy isn't based on majority rule. Instead, the candidate who gets the most votes wins.

OK, I can hear you now: "Kirk, what the hell are you talking about? 'Majority' and 'most' means the same thing!" Actually, they only mean the same thing in a two-, not three-, party system. I'll explain. Say there's a table with 20 apples. Tom sits down and takes 8 of these apples. Dick grabs 7, leaving Harry with 5. Who has the most apples? Tom, obviously. But he doesn't have the majority, because Dick's and Harry's combined are more than that. Tom, in fact, has a minority of the apples. He just gets more, that's all.

So, while it's tempting to vote for someone other than the lesser of two evils for a change, with a third party, you may find that the greater of three evils gets in office instead.

Is there anyway this all could  be improved? Well, you could change the law to favor the "majority" over the "most.' Two ways come to mind. You could have a two-part first-choice, second-choice election. If nobody gets a majority, the candidate with the least amount of votes is disqualified. Another election is held, with a nice clear-cut majority/most winner. This way, a liberal could let his hair down and vote for Ralph Nader in the first election, and then more realistically for Al Gore in the second. A conservative could make a principled vote for Pat Buchanan in the first election, and then vote for the more moderate George W. Bush in the second (at least everybody thought he was more moderate in 2000.)  I think we'd have a much clearer understanding of what the electorate really thinks about things. A better compass, so to speak.

Another way, one that I increasingly favor, is to add NONE OF THE ABOVE onto the ballot. Worried about the effect of money on elections? The Koch brothers could go through their entire fortune until they'd have nothing left but a single roll of Angle Soft toilet paper between them, and still couldn't defeat NONE OF THE ABOVE at the polls. Don't like negativity in politics? What kind of smear campaign could you possibly have against NONE OF THE ABOVE? Could you call NONE OF THE ABOVE a communist? If there's anyone who is not now or never been, it's NONE. Accuse NONE OF THE ABOVE of having sex with an underage intern? How would you know if she was on top or bottom?

OK, I can hear you now: "But, Kirk, suppose NONE OF THE ABOVE wins the election? Won't it look rather odd on inauguration day having the presidential limo go down Pennsylvania Avenue with no one in the back seat to wave at the crowds?"

If NONE OF THE ABOVE wins, you would then have a second election, this time without NONE on the ballot. Whoever got the most votes would win that election, but they'd go into office a bit humbled, a bit chastened. There would be no beating on the chest about how they have a mandate, about how the people have spoken.

Well, I suppose he or she could always brag they were second to NONE.



  1. I had a really good comment going, stopped to do a bit of research and lost it. Anyway the gist is I am voting for Jill Stein, though Virginia is also called a "swing state" like Ohio, I don't believe the race will be close enough here that my one vote will make a difference. so I am voting more out principle and taking a chance the worst won't be elected. Obama would get my vote except I really can't condone the increased use of drones both outside and inside the US. So my vote is actually a protest vote though I and now you will be the only ones who know that. And Of course your many readers who seemed to have disappeared for this discussion.
    As far as none of the above vote I will say that America needs to go to a proportional system where a majority truly does matter.

    1. I have many readers? Aw, Mike, you flatter me.

      After Obama was elected, I fully intended to hold his feet to the fire. In fact, I had a post criticizing his choice of Hilary Clinton for Secretary of State. I felt it was a political stunt that had made the earlier primary race between the two--which I followed closely--a moot point. If you're curious about what I said:

      But soon after Obama took office, that whole birther thing took off, and continues to this very day. That, plus, all the racist imagry that can be found all over the web, made it hard for me to view him in a vacuum. Frankly, I think he's been rather cowed by all the attacks on his legitimacy. It makes me wonder what will happen when we get the first woman, Hispanic, Jewish, or openly gay president. If you believe the middle-of-the-road is the best of all political worlds, you should root that one of the above gets elected, because they'll face so much sexism, bigotry, and homophobia they may shy away from taking any position that's the least bit controversial, in order to appear "safe".

      Jill Stein. I just threw that name out because I see it popping up in more and more political blogs. She might steal a few white liberal votes from Obama, but no black or hispanic is going to vote for her. Sorry to be so blunt, but that's the fact. Ralph Nader had a much, much better opportunity to cause an upset in 2000 than stein does now.

      The drones. Are you aware, Mike, that Paul Begula, a Democratic strategist and a former member of the Clinton White House, has been writing online editorials PRAISING Obama for the drone attacks? That's what I meant by the party defining liberalism for reasons of bald, political strategy. Begula's also been praising Obama for killing Osama, though it seems increasingly likely that Bin Laden could have been taken alive and thus been tried in court, as was Herman Goering at the end of World War II. In fact, I was going to use THAT as an example, except I felt it was a little too provocative and might have distracted from my overall point. So I went with the Department of Homeland Security, which no one even talks about much anymore.

      Thanks for commenting, Mike. Glad you chose not to disappear from the discussion. Actually, I see I picked up a reader, so I'm not too concerned.

  2. I HATE this election... In fact I am so disgusted with "my ?" democrat party... that I don't now if I am a liberal Republican or a conservative democrat ?
    There is no choice !
    The only way I can feel better about this election is I now answer the all phone calls.
    I now tell all the "phone poll people" and "get out the vote people" that I am voting for the person who calls me less and that today is not you !
    Or I say to the other "who would you vote today for poll" I always say NEITHER !
    As for the "do you think the country is on the right path" I am now saying "OH HELL NO !"
    I despise the democrat party since Clinton's election, where he wanted Orange County, California (Republican held) and he and Gloria Sanchez got a amnesty program set in place before the election. There was a cartoon, it was either LA Times or the Register that was the last cartoon I ever saw on this subject where the illegals started in Mexico in a tunnel under the border and arriving in Santa Anna for amnesty and their voter card. Well it worked Clinton and Sanchez took Orange County.
    Right now my democrat party is pandering for the illegal vote and I despise that. If you oppose it you are raciest. Why should their vote overwhelm and be more important than mine ? I am all for Legal immigration, my Grandfather and Grandmother came to America from Poland legally. They became citizens and voted legally.
    In Arizona the Obama Government knocked down the law that said you have to show proof that you are a citizen.

    Living in a Border State I have seen subversion of our system of laws and checks and balances for money (Mexico) and political power (America).

    But all this doesn't even matter to the voters in Arizona because the election is decided even before the Arizona polls are closed. When I lived in California at lest I had the illusion that my vote counted.
    MY vote doesn't count and never will !
    It will never count till we get a majority of every vote cast to really pick the winner. And put the checks and balances back to assure legal voters are the ones voting.

    cheers, parsnip

    1. Well, my many readers may have disappeared from the discussion, but the few that have shown up certainly aren't lacking in passion. I admire the way you manage to still leave a "cheers" after all that, parsnip.

      As one who also had a grandfather and grandmother who came here from Poland (on one side of the family. Slovakia, Hungary, and Ireland on the other), I, too, am bothered by illegal immigration, as I think it's one of many things that depresses wages for many working-class American. One argument in favor of leaving illegals alone is that "they do work Americans won't do." Well, pay more money and Americans would do that work. Another thing, since they're not coming to America for the baseball and hot dogs but for jobs that may pay poorly by our standards but not theirs, does that mean Mexico has to stay in a permanent state of abject poverty in order to provide the US with a certain kind of worker? But you can't completely lay this at the feet of the Democrats. George W Bush ignored the issue the best he could, and isn't it possible that at least some of those employers who knowingly hire illegals are Republican? It's a complicated issue because there are so many illegals in the country already. I myself hope to someday live in a world where all countries have a decent standard of living, and nobody gets exploited, neither immigrants nor the native born.

      The phone people. I just have a cell phone for the time being, and for some reason the "get out the vote people" never call on those. I voted weeks ago by mail, anyway. Mine gets in there early.

      Thanks for commenting, parsnip.

    2. Wow, so agree with all you have said...
      I have a 4 day post written about how the illegals have affected my life, my mothers and two really close friend in California. If I post it I am sure I will lose 90% of my readers.
      I have a fabulous Hispanic friend, in fact his whole family is wonderful, he tell me stories about what is going on in Mexico right now and it awful. We are in for so much trouble. Obama has no clue. The lower and middle class workers are dieing all for greed and power.
      Anyways what it still comes down to is my vote does not count.
      But, I have vote already too !

      cheers, parsnip

    3. Well, parsnip, I agree that you can be against illegal immigration without being a racist. My concerns, as I've stated, are mostly economic. I don't live in a state with a huge influx of illegal immigrants (Ohio has enough trouble keeping people--legal or otherwise--from LEAVING) so I can't speak to the socialogical effects of the problem.

      We're a nation of immigrants. My mother, who was born in this country, once told me that more signs in the Cleveland neighborhood she grew up in were written in Polish than in English. That must have jarring for any WASPs driving through. Her grandmother--here legally--never learned to speak English. This was back in the 1940s and 1950s. That neighborhood is mostly black now. The children of those Polish people now live in the suburbs and exurbs and the closest they probably come to observing the customs of their ancestors is buying frozen perogi at Giant Eagle. As scary as things may look now for all you non-Hispanics living in California and Arizona, assimilation may lie just around the corner. To paraprase Huck Finn, we've been here before.

  3. I understand a nation of immigrants but when your come here illegally, you chose to do that instead of applying for a green card, They chose to break our laws because it means money and they chose not to wait. But when they get caught is is all tears and sadness, because some bleeding heart liberal will cry buckets of tears and my tax money for them.
    Hey if I broke the law for 5, 10, 15 years let me tell you no one would be crying for me and my butt would be in jail faster that you can say illegal.
    My Mum needed an operation 30 years ago. She could see the hospital from her back yard. As an American citizen on Medi Care she had to fill out papers to secure who would pay the bill beside Medi Care.
    Then her doctor chose another hospital 40 minutes away. Why ? because that hospital was on the verge of closing because the maternity ward was hemorrhaging money. They hadn't had a paying delivery in so long that the hospital was broke. It was close the hospital or close the maternity wing.
    You see the was to get around living in America illegally is to have a baby. An Anchor baby. The baby is a citizen the parents are not, so they become the babies guardians till the baby is 21. The Baby get aid to dependent children, welfare, food stamps and a section 8 housing.
    With in the year that child will be supporting various aunts, uncles cousins, grandmothers, so to make more money the Mother will have another baby.
    We are paying illegals to have babies. So now those babies are 30 years old, guess who they are voting for, the party who gives them money.
    Meanwhile my Mum had the operation and paid all the extra that was not covered out of pocket. If she was illegal she could have had the operation for free.
    A year or so later the maternity wing re=opened and the first Mother to have a baby was from Mexico who "accidentally" was in Tucson when her baby came. She said she didn't know when her baby was due, Even though she had 6 children at home in Mexico. Let me tell you, due date or not after the first baby comes you know when the next baby is coming.
    So the first baby born in the re=opened wing was delivered for free and for the money the parents could make. Babies are not money !
    I bet in a year all 6 kids where living here and a few others.
    All paid for by my taxes.
    Most of the illegals here now don't want assimilation. They want to be Mexicans who live in America for money.
    My brother was in Law enforcement and my Hispanic friend has one sister and two cousins who are in Law enforcement. The stories they tell. The stories my friend tell are unbelievable.
    I know this sounds harsh but this is what you don't see on the news or political sound bites.

    cheers, parsnip

  4. Well, parsnip, I've got good news and bad news for you.

    Because I live so far away, and the issue doesn't really affect me I can not and will not condemn you for bigotry, as you say others are doing, or you're afraid that they will do. That's the good news.

    The bad news is, because I live so far away, I can't quite make the issue the thing I care about more than anything else. I hope you'll understand that. Ohio has been battered by the deindustrialization of this country that's occurred under both Republicans and Democrats, and that's caused just as much pain in these neck of the woods as illegal immigration has in yours. That, plus there being other issues I care about, plus not having the time to write about ANY of them, means I can do no more then tell you I appreciate your passion on that particualr problem, and that's about it. If you want to write more about it here in the comment section, feel free to do so, but there's not much more I can say on the issue.


In order to keep the hucksters, humbugs, scoundrels, psychos, morons, and last but not least, artificial intelligentsia at bay, I have decided to turn on comment moderation. On the plus side, I've gotten rid of the word verification.