Have Yourself an Ambivalent Little Christmas


The Golden Age of Spam

Will the Real Renaissance Please Stand Up?

My Life of Crime

My Life of Crime, Pt. 2: The War of the Dandelions

Black (and Blue) Friday

Going Home

How Not to Celebrate a Holiday

Traffic Report Fall Down
and Go Boom

O, Holy Weekend

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?

Side Disorders

Lessons for Hurricane Preparedness as Taught By Example in Raleigh, North Carolina

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?, Pt. 2: Are They Gone Yet?

The Last Reality Show

It Builds Character

Sink the Flu

WTF (in C Major)

Intruder Alert

Kneel before Za

I Got Your Breaking News Right Here, Pal

Christmas in July...or April...or maybe even December


Why I Hate "The Little Drummer Boy"

You Mean My Vote Actually Means Something?

It's a tradition in North Carolina that we don't matter in presidential primaries. We hold our primaries so late in the game — usually in early May — that both parties have settled on their candidates. The national parties like it this way: one of them even promised the state 25% more delegates at the convention to keep the state legislature from moving the primary to an earlier date (i.e., a date where our opinions might actually mean something). That strikes me as pretty dumb, but what's even dumber is that it worked. Huh? Think about this for a second: The national party said "We'll give you 25% more delegates as long as you promise to schedule your primary for a time when those 25% more delegates won't have any effect on the results." And the state legislature said, "You got it." How stupid do you have to be to accept a bribe where the whole point of the bribe is to make certain what you're being bribed with is absolutely worthless? It would have made more sense to accept a bribe of 100 million Zimbabwean dollars. You could at least use that to buy a loaf of bread, as long as you got to the store by 11 o'clock this morning.

Of course, I do understand why no national party wants us to have any say in this. Look at North Carolina's demographics: While the population across America is 12% black and 15% Hispanic, the population of North Carolina is a mere 11% black and 7% Hispanic. Our per capita income is a mere $20,307, way lower than the $21,587 per capita income of the country as a whole. Our demographics are completely unrepresentative of this country. It's no wonder that the parties turn to more representative states such as Iowa (3% black, 3% Hispanic, per capita income $19,674) and New Hampshire (1% black, 2% Hispanic, per capita income $23,844).

But this year the gambit backfired. Here we are, only a couple of days from our primary, and the Democrats still haven't settled on a candidate. Since I'm unaffiliated and unaffiliated voters in North Carolina can pick one of the two primaries and vote in it, I have the option of voting in the Democratic primary. In other words, I actually get to have a meaningful vote in a presidential primary for the first time in my life. This is something of a novelty for me. The only thing I can think of to compare it to is taking a bribe of 100 million Zimbabwean dollars and actually getting to buy more than a loaf of bread with it.

So as a result, we're getting the TV ads, the messages on our answering machines (can't canvassers wait until after we finish dinner to call?), and even calls from pollsters. Before now, the only time I've ever gotten a call from a pollster was when they wanted to know what radio stations I was listening to. Now, I've gotten two calls in the past two weeks from a pollster asking was I likely to vote in the primary, did I know who for, how likely I was to change my mind, and what religion did I think Obama was.

Yes, they asked this. And of course, they didn't ask this question about Clinton. The first time, I could tell from the tone in the pollster's voice that she was actually mildly embarrassed to be asking such a question.

The options presented were "Catholic", "Christian but not Catholic", "Muslim", "Jewish", or "Other". Oh, how a part of me wanted to have some fun at this point. I'm always tempted to give outlandish answers to questions just to mess with people's heads, and some questions are just so stupid that they don't deserve an honest answer. My mind was racing on how best to answer this. If I said "Other", was she likely to ask me what religion I thought he was so I could explain I thought he was a Zoroastrian? Would the answer "Jewish" make her think I was off my stool or just make her think I was so stupid that I not only fell for the "secret Muslim" slander but also couldn't remember which religion he was supposed to be slandered with? Would I even get to finish the poll if I said he was Catholic and went on to explain that it was in fact he and not some albino monk who killed the Grand Master of the Priory of Sion?

The sad thing is that it actually is not a stupid question when you consider something like 10% of Americans still think he's a Muslim, so I answered it straight. I'm still trying to figure out how anyone could still think the man isn't a Christian after a monthlong firestorm of reports about what his pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ said, but as the old saying goes, no one ever went broke underestimating the American public.

Somehow, Obama is currently leading in the polls in North Carolina. This surprises me. His ads are too positive. Negative ads are hardly exclusive to North Carolina, but this state has raised them to a perverse sort of art form. In this state, if you're running for office and you haven't accused your opponent of either boiling babies to make soap, running a prostitution ring out of his basement, or cheering for the New York Yankees, then you're not even trying to run a serious campaign. And candidates don't necessarily wait for the general election to do this, either. You should see what the two Democratic candidates for governor have been doing to each other. The two front runners — I call them Tweedlemud and Tweedlemuddier — have slung so much mud at each other that they could have built a lifesize replica of an Anasazi village out of it. Tweedlemud takes bribes from Wall Street. Tweedlemuddier voted against a law that would make it easier for law enforcement agencies to investigate the Klan. All the standard tricks are there: the black-and-white photos of the opponent in non-flattering poses. The fact that they hardly even mention the candidate who sponsored the ad except for the obligatory "I'm Tweedlemud, and I approved this message." And, of course, the quotes taken from various statewide newspapers with scathing criticisms of the opponent.

And then you look at the date of the quotes and realize that half of them come from the early 1990s. Seriously.

All of this isn't particularly funny, or even noteworthy. But something happened a couple of weeks ago that sent this whole mess straight into the realm of the sublime. One of the candidates' campaigns announced that it was pulling all the negative ads immediately. Okay, that's a refreshing change. But two days later I was watching TV while eating breakfast, and I nearly choked on my microwaved French toast when I saw an ad from this candidate wherein said candidate actually stated, with a perfectly straight face, "I'm proud the be the Democratic candidate for governor who's running a positive campaign."

I repeat: with a perfectly straight face. Not even a hint of cracking a smile at this whopper. And this person is running for governor? Forget the governor's mansion. This person does not need to be running for governor. This person needs to be in Las Vegas playing poker. Doyle Brunson himself would be lucky to keep his shirt.

Maybe that's how we should be picking our leaders anyway. How much quicker would it be if we just let all the candidates put in $10,000 and play Texas Hold 'Em until we were down to a single candidate? No, really: Think about it for a moment. No more negative ads. No more pointless debates with vapid questions. No more concerns about hanging chads and the electoral college and who did what fifteen years ago. Just shuffle up and deal. It'll be over in a weekend, and we'll be guaranteed to get someone who's great at hiding the truth, pretending to be something they're not, and calculating the probability of drawing an inside straight.

In other words, in much less time and with much money, we'll get the same kind of leaders we have now, except that they'll also have strong math skills.

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