Tue, 06 Nov 2012
Cast Thine Ballot Upon the Waters
I voted today. Yeah yeah, yay me and all that, but it was a miserable affair all told. When I voted in 2008 it was quick, easy, zip zip, in and out, done. And in 2010 I availed myself of Arizona's early voting, and it was also painless.
This time made up for both of those. First, my polling place was in an apartment complex, their central staffroom or some such. Not the same place as I voted in 2008, or 04 or 2000 or any time before that. I have no idea how they select polling sites; maybe it's a competition like hosting the Olympics, presumably with the corresponding graft and corruption. Maybe it's state law that they can't have repeats. I have no idea. All I know is, I've never been to the same place twice.
Anyway, myself and a crowd of mostly friendly folks stood outside chatting for about a half hour. Then we stood inside for another thirty minutes or so, until I was able to worm my way up to the proper desk. The place was packed cheek by jowl, and movement was further impeded by spectacularly stupid path layout, which seems to have been intentionally designed to be as slow and uncomfortable as possible. Stupidity like that doesn't happen by accident.
When I finally arrived at the proper desk, the very nice ladies there looked me up in the voter-rolls book and found me straightaway, but ... oops, I couldn't produce anything with my physical street address printed on it. That's because I never use it: all my post comes to a PO box, which is on my driver's license and every other piece of documentation I carry. Since I've been paying my bills online, I don't think I even have anything with my street address on it.
Unwilling to deny me my right to vote, they sent me to the provisional-ballot line, where I stood for another half hour or so. When I got to the front of it, thank the gods of democracy, there was a poll worker there who, bless her heart, knew that the ladies at the desk were idiots and big ol' meanies, and since they did have my PO box recorded on the rolls, and since it was clearly printed on my picture ID, I was all set and should be able to vote like a normal citizen. So she took me by the arm and we bulled our way to the front of the line at the original desk, smartly clouting those folks who'd stood in it for their own hour and felt they had the right to be next, and explained to the poor underinformed senior citizen running the desk that yes, I could indeed vote.
That cleared up, I was given a purple ballot (apparently indicating which precinct I lived in, not like those nasty subhuman green-ballot people) and sent to a "booth", euphemism for a cardboard folder about a foot high that ensured my ballot markings would be hidden from the fevered gaze of my neighbors. Since I'd been standing in that roasting-hot jam-packed room for at least an hour and a half, I was sweating profusely. So of course I dripped a drop of sweat onto my ballot, which smeared the felt-tip marking I'd made indicating my displeasure at some judge whose name I'd never heard before. (My policy on judge retention is, unless I know their name, throw the bastards out.)
That then led the electronic reader machine stationed at the exit to reject my ballot. At least that's the conclusion reached by the lady who was staffing that location, after she reviewed each and every selection I'd made. Thank goodness we have a secret ballot! She asked if I wanted to fill out a new ballot, or if I was willing to just go with skipping the vote on that person. I told her I'd rather have my eyes gouged out with a felt-tipped pen than fill out another ballot, and yes, she could go ahead and reject my marking for that hapless judge. Not very civic-minded of me, I admit, but by that point I just wanted to flee.
So she fingered some mysterious control at the lower rear of the reader machine, which seemed vaguely kinky and erotic, and which caused it to accept my otherwise-faulty ballot and allowed me to get my "I voted today" sticker and get the hell outta dodge. So yes, I voted, and I'll do it again, probably in two years, but I wasn't a happy camper by the time it was over. Pity me!
Next time I'm voting by mail! Or whatever futuristic method they will have developed by 2014. Ion plasma smoke signals, hell I dunno.
Tue, 17 Mar 2009
The mediasphere, mostly on the left-hand side, has been all abuzz about Jon Stewart's takedown of CNBC's Jim Cramer on basic cable. (The rightward parts are mostly ignoring it.) Everyone seems to be wondering why the usually-formidable Cramer allowed Daily Show funnyman Stewart to eat his liver with such unopposed gusto. But I wonder, what was Cramer to do? If he blasted back with both barrels, he would have come across as a monstrous dick, and I have little doubt that Stewart was ready for such a comeback and might have made the interview even more damaging. So Cramer sat there and let Stewart pummel him, and came out looking like a weaselly little wimp instead. Dick or wimp—it was basically a no-win situation.
I think maybe Cramer was taking a hint from Tucker Carlson's experience on Crossfire with Stewart in 2004. Poor hapless Carlson came at Stewart like a freight train, mocking him for pitching softball questions at candidate Kerry when he had a chance to really probe for the softest parts of the senator's underbelly. Stewart's response was classic: "You're on CNN; the show that leads in to me is puppets making crank phone calls. What is wrong with you?" Stewart's point was, if people "look to Comedy Central for their cues on [journalistic] integrity", then the country is in trouble. Surveys have shown that they are doing exactly that, though, so I guess we really are in trouble. Like we needed more clues.
Now, I'm not defending Cramer. I happen to think that he is a colossal douche, albeit a very smart one, and never for a second did I think he really felt guilty of the charges Stewart was levelling at him. But I'm not sure his response to the interview was worse than the alternatives. A couple months after his interview with Stewart, CNN dropped Carlson, and soon thereafter Crossfire was cancelled. I bet Cramer keeps his job, despite predictions to the contrary from some pundits.
The press is changing: Blogs are sizzling hot right now, and even traditional media outlets are starting their own. The public is starting to expect instant turnaround, causing things like Twitter to gain prominence. Newspapers across the country are closing up shop, or at least switching to electronic distribution. Most blame the expansion of the Internet and the contraction of attention spans, but I think it may have more to do with the changes in the relationship between journalists and their quarry. In days past, to paraphrase Hanns Johst, when people saw a reporter, they reached for their gun.
People used to hate reporters—watch any movie from the 1940s or earlier. Back then, if a politician saw a Norway rat and a reporter, he'd have to think pretty hard before deciding which one to throw a shoe at first. Nowadays, they're all chums, and the biggest decision is whether to meet at CityZen or Capital Grill for their off-the-record interview. And reporters being human, they tend to pull back from setting their friends afire. They have fooled themselves into thinking that they need the politicians, rather than the other way around. And in today's world of a million channels, pages, and articles, with the media being controlled by fewer than a half dozen deregulated multinational corporations, maybe they're right.
I hope this doesn't eventually shake out with The Most Trusted Name in News bashing cuneiform into clay tablets with a broken pool cue.