(and why it didn't matter to me in the first place, despite all the begging)
DESPITE all the voting irregularities and obvious corruption in the final count, I've agreed to go quietly into that good night, conceding the semi-final matchup to my worthy opponent Brandon of My Own Private Idaho. I've written a wonderful concession speech (which will surprise anyone who hears it, because it is actually the victory speech I'd planned on giving... I'm too busy for rewrites!) and as soon as Quincy arranges for me to have all three major television networks for a simulcast of my remarks, you'll be able to tune in and here humble in action. This sucks, like a chest wound. I had planned on using the prize money from the First Annual Stunner Award to serve as the down payment on our chalet in the mountains. Now I've got to forge those papers to make it look like someone else signed the mortage on that place we found. Dammit.
To those of you who took the time and trouble to go over to Quincy's place to vote, I want to thank you, provided you voted for me. If you voted for Brandon, instead, just know that I'll find out and track you down like mad dogs. But I digress... The contest was obviously rigged from the start, when I was paired up against a much stronger opponent who had millions of active followers AND wrote well. Had I not bribed the vote counters, she would have creamed my ass. Then I had to fight a heretic's battle against goodness and light when Quincy paired me up against an ordained minister who was not only articulate, but beautiful. She didn't seem to take the contest very seriously, since evil is supposed to lose these epic struggles most of the time, and somehow I managed to bribe enough people to win by a nose. But that's where the party ended. Brandon had coasted into the semis without breaking wind OR a sweat, and for the first time in the brackets had to actually call on friends, family, and Facebook for help. I briefly held a four vote lead at one time yesterday evening, and then Brandon's team woke up and realized they'd been voting for the wrong blogger. That's when it got ugly. He jumped twenty votes ahead in about five minutes. I became despondent, took a beta blocker and went to bed.
When I woke up and checked the vote tally, my 42 votes had somehow vaporized down to 12 votes. I lost thirty votes for sleeping? Anyway, it didn't get any better as the day progressed, and a little while ago the contest administrator wrote to say he didn't know what to do about all the missing votes, and would I like to suggest possible options. Not wanting to endure another minute of the beatdown Brandon was giving my ass, I turned my king over on the chess board and flipped off everyone involved. Then I turned over the table and threw a ceramic drink coaster at Brandon. He couldn't stop laughing... because Idaho is slightly out of my coaster throwing range.
So tonight I lick my wounds. Only, I can't reach most of them, so if anyone knows a licker who isn't busy... I'll be home all night. Looking for affirmation in the eyes of the voters, I got this:
But there's always next year. And maybe I'll convince Jimmy Carter and a team of election watchers to come down from the UN to monitor the count...
Yesterday I posted a story about a trip I took to a local supermarket for groceries, and in it I told the tale of a loud woman who entertained all of the shoppers in the store (and probably a few in the parking lot...) with her cell phone conversation with "Carl." In trying to set the stage for the story I described her as a "rather large black woman." Shortly thereafter the website "Crooks and Liars" posted a link to my blog story (thanks, fellas) and I began to see a noticeable uptick in hits on the blog, followed by one critical comment that questioned why it was necessary to note the woman's color. That was followed by a suggestion that I hated black women, grocery shopping, and cell phones. Well, two out of three isn't bad, I guess. I do hate shopping and I've been known to rant about cell phones.
I wrote in response that I had mentioned "black" as a descriptive, just as I would have mentioned "one-legged" or "purple hair" or "white mumu mama from Walmart" if any of those descriptions had applied. The comment made me question whether or not it's PC (whatever the fuck THAT is these days) to even make a distinction of race or ethnicity when describing another person. Are we to the point where just saying a person is white or black or Asian or disabled or tall or Squatlo is out of bounds? I personally don't think so, but then, I don't make the rules. I don't necessarily have to follow them here on my own blogsite, either, but I'm curious to know whether or not anyone else was offended by that description.
As some of you probably are aware, Squatlo Rant has been involved in a prolonged blogger contest with 15 other worthy contestants over at ThankQ for Common Sense, and that contest has narrowed down to the Fab Four. I've been paired up against the Goliath of the bunch, Brandon over at My Own Private Idaho, and he's been kicking my ass around like a red-headed stepchild. I went to bed last night with over forty votes, but found myself trailing by nearly twenty to Idaho. I woke up today and my total vote tally was twelve. I lost thirty votes while I was asleep. Snoozers Losers, I guess. So I dropped an email to Quincy at ThankQ to ask what had happened, and it seems that others have noticed the same drop in their vote totals as well. Seems like someone must have bumped the abacus or something, because all the vote tallies are wrong. So to all of you who have taken the time to visit Quincy's blog at ThankQ for Common Sense to vote for Squatlo, I want to thank you for your efforts, though it looks like they were in vain. I'm considering a court injunction to stop the election, or to demand a recount, or to insist that Jimmy Carter and an international election committee from the United Nations be called in to supervise the resolution of this outrageous travesty of justice. ;-)
Quincy's lying low, probably wishing to God he'd never even started this silly shit in the first place, which makes this way more fun than the actual blog contest ever was. See, Q's been enjoying the tension this has caused for those of us who are in the game... knowing that we're coming back to his site regularly to check on election updates, worrying all our friends to vote for us, begging and bribing (my own particular method for obtaining results) our way to victory. Now he's got a shitstorm of controversy, probably none of it of his own doing, and we get to watch him (as Sarah Palin might say) squirmish his way out of it. Good luck, Quincy! No one's going to be happy with whatever you do in determining the winners in this one. I think you should split the awesome prize money between the four of us. What's zero divided by four? A check's fine, Q... cash is better.
By the way, the "POLLS" are still open for a few more hours, and I guess if you want to see your vote disappear like it was cast in Soviet Russia, you can dash over there and vote...
In our continuing efforts to out-stupid legislators from Texas, two of our local state representatives have filed bills before the state legislature to make potential presidential candidates produce valid birth certificates in order to be allowed on the ballot. Can't have just any yahoo with a short-form certificate of live birth showing up expecting to draw votes from hard working Tennesseans, you know? After all, the same state reps want to make sure no one in Tennessee votes without a valid drivers license photo ID, thus cutting down on the turnout of the "wrong" voters (and you know who THEY vote for...) According to an article in the Nashville Tennesseans on-line edition (motto: "Even less informative than our actual paper!") two of the representatives of our fair city are trying to "birther" their way to national prominence. Representative Rick Womick (R-Murfreesboro) says he thinks Obama has a proper birth certificate, but his legislation would have "put the issue to rest." Yeah, right. Putting it to rest is what Republicans are all about. House bill 2065 failed to get out of committee. Senator Bill Ketron (also of Murfreesboro... we're so fucking proud of these dickwads, you just don't know...) has a similar bill pending in the state Senate. He's "not certain" Obama is a U.S. citizen. We can balance the state books, there are motions to deny collective bargaining for teachers and other public employees unions, motions are being raised to curtail public library and park hours to save money, and this is the kind of horseshit our esteemed political leaders are spending their time on. Can't make this shit up, no one would believe me...
How about a bill saying that if a politician doesn't have anything better to do than jerk-off on company time we stop paying him until he's serious about doing his fucking job? I'd vote for that one...
Dan Rather's interview with former Mexican foreign minister Jorge Castaneda for his program Dan Rather Reports (HDNet) includes this film clip in which Castaneda reasons that the cause of the violence and mayhem in Mexican border territories with the United States is the U.S. backed "War on Drugs" being waged in that country. Castaneda's boss, former President Vincente Fox has written in favor of the legalization of marijuana in his own blog.
You don't have to be a drug enforcement expert to understand that prohibition doesn't work. If you can read American history (at least in the 49 states other than Texas that haven't rewritten the textbooks for the neocon-artists of the Lone Star State legislature) you'll find that making alcohol illegal in this country was the most profitable thing to ever happen for organized crime in America. The kidnappings, murders, and domestic terrorism that followed the institution of prohibition in America were all directly related to the government's effort to deny a coveted product from the American people.
It could also be said that millions of dollars were invested into government agencies like the FBI and ATF that might not otherwise have been available, putting economic pressure on lawmakers to continue prohibition in order to make that investment successful. The same thing is happening today, especially when it comes to marijuana interdiction. Billions of dollars are spent annually in drug interdiction efforts, incarcerations, court costs, and manpower expenditures. What is gained from these efforts? The private prison industry is booming, law enforcement and Homeland Security budgets are always swimming in Congressional appropriated cash, and confiscation of private property for drug related offenses is at an all-time high. All of this keeps the price of weed unnaturally high (pardon the expression) compared to what it might be if it were a legal product. As a matter of fact, if pot were legal hundreds of thousands of Americans would be working in that industry, growing, transporting, processing, marketing, and vending marijuana products, which would in turn raise billions in taxes all along the way. So why do we wage a war that only drives up the price, turns Mexican cities in free-fire zones rife with kidnappings, bombings, and beheadings, and results in the incarcerations of thousands of otherwise law abiding U.S. citizens? Because there's a profit to be made by certain segments of the government for doing so, despite the overall balance sheet falling woefully into the red. The drug enforcement agencies have become a branch of our government all unto themselves. Their budgets are astronomical, and no one can seriously threaten their continued existence without being painted as "soft on crime." The politician who insists that logic and common sense would demand an end to our failed experiment toward the prohibition of drugs would face a withering shitstorm of negative campaign ads, backed by the bottomless coffers of those who profit from the status quo. And while our politicians dither and procrastinate on the legalization issue, innocent Mexicans are butchered in the streets just south of our border, usually with weapons imported from the United States. What's wrong with this picture?
There's an article on Alternet today by Ian I. Mitroff (cross-posted on Tikkun) that attempts to explain our modern political partisanship through psychiatric theory, and there's a lot to be said for the explanations outlined in that post. Here's a quote from the article that caught my eye:
From the hateful and incendiary rants of the Tea Partiers; to the unrelenting, over-the-top behavior of Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh; to the ceaseless paranoia of the extreme left with regard to business, we are surrounded by out-and-out paranoia.
I'll try to recap the gist of the story, and forgive me if I don't carry an advanced degree in psychiatry... We identify with those who share our core beliefs (friends/good guys) and revile those who don't (foes/bad guys), resulting in "projections" of good or evil, friend or foe for each group. For example, progressives might view corporations, religious fundamentalists, climage change deniers, etc. as dangerous or worse, as evil. Conservatives might view Muslims, immigrants, environmentalists, and organized labor as dangerous, or evil. Both sides can "project" the exact same sentiment about the other's sacred cows as an absolute, unwavering truth. And likewise, we can all project an aura of virtue and righteousness about our friends, the good guys who are working on our behalf. The problem with carrying these unreasonable standards without questioning the actual motives and truths behind the actions of those we project to be inherently good is that our faith and trust in those people, especially when it relates to political leaders, is fragile. At the first failure of our leaders to live up to our impossibly high standards, whether through compromise or out and out betrayal, we tend to lash out in extremely negative ways. Often we are unable to even express specifics relating to our sense of betrayal and loss. In a sense, these psychoanalytical theories can explain a lot of the partisan divide in American politics today. The right can insulate itself in the echo chamber of Faux News and right wing radio, and cling to a core belief system that spawns movements such as the Tea Party. That same passionate belief system can also manifest itself in armed militias and survivalist mentalities that are unwilling to participate in reasonable debate on issues. The left wraps itself in left-leaning media outlets, the blogosphere, and the intellectual elitism of acadamea, and passionately dispises those very manifestations the right adores. Extremism on the left can lead to eco-terrorism and anti-corporate fervor that sometimes manifests itself in protests such as the frequent G8 Summit disturbances. According to Wilfred Bion, one of the early founders of psychoanalysis, you "can't reason with psychotics," and there's a little psychosis in all of us. We become bitterly disappointed when the leaders we held in high esteem fail to live up to our every dream and hope, and we revile those who take positions polar to our own. Welcome to the cuckoo's nest, version U.S.A.
I had to make a grocery store run yesterday afternoon, and while I was wandering around looking for sunflower seeds (my lovely wife needed them for a slaw she was whipping up as part of our ongoing efforts to eat healthier foods...) I had several opportunities to share in a long, loud conversation with Carl. I don't know Carl. We've never met. But I feel a certain kinship with the man, simply because I'm now privy to so much information he'd probably rather keep to himself. Carl made the mistake of either answering a call from or making a call to a rather large black woman who was multi-tasking her way through Publix, and because of that all of the shoppers in the store became unwilling participants in a lengthy piece of performance art. No sooner had I made my way out of the produce section in my quest for sunflower seeds (they aren't in the veggie section, by the way) and turned down the first aisle, Ms Thunderlungs approached from the other direction in mid-conversation.
"You hear me, Carl? She never even sees those kids! Carl! She never even sees those kids! It's ridiculous for her to think she has a right to say something like that! Carl!"
I'm not Columbo, but I was able to pick up from that one cursory pass in the greeting card section (sunflower seeds aren't there, either, if you're wondering) that the woman was talking to Carl. I'm not sure Carl even needed the cell phone to have heard her part of the conversation, though. She was a loud woman. This woman will never be lost under rubble while cadaver dogs search for her remains. They'll hear this woman, I promise you. Because we were headed in different directions, I got to make another pass in the next aisle (and sunflower seeds aren't sold in the shampoo and personal hygiene aisle, either). Here she came, and other than her dufflebag-sized pocketbook in front of the handlebar, her cart was still empty.
"That's all I'm saying, Carl! Carl! If she cared about those kids she'd make an effort to be there! You hear me, Carl? She's just saying that to make you mad, Carl! You don't have to take them to her, Carl! She hasn't done one thing for those kids, Carl! Carl! She hasn't done one thing!"
I'm not exaggerating the number of times Carl's name was barked out like profanity. If she used the word "Carl" once she used it a hundred times during the course of my search. I turned down the next aisle and resisted an eye roll as she approached from the other direction, still pushing the empty cart, this time down the cereal aisle (which isn't home to sunflowers, by the way).
"You're a fool, Carl! She's playing you, Carl! No! No! You don't have to- Carl! You don't have to do a damn thing, Carl! Carl! That's not true! I - I - I don't care, Carl! Carl? She can pick up those kids if she wants to see them! Has she ever? Has she? Has she, Carl? What? I said has she ever picked those kids up, Carl? Carl!"
A couple of other shoppers passed by, and everyone else seemed oblivious to the verbal beat-down Carl was taking. I felt sorry for Carl, that poor bastard. From what I'd heard, he probably had an ex-wife or ex-girlfriend who was badgering him about some aspect of shared custody visitation rights involving their spawnings, and on top of THAT bullshit he was getting it from Bertha in the pasta aisle (where you'll find zero packages of sunflower seeds, or any other seed-related products).
I decided to skip over an aisle just to avoid hearing any more of the abuse of poor Carl. The canned goods aisle is product intensive, so I had to slow down my search and pay attention, which was a mistake, because Carl's tormentor was able to round the corner just as I was turning to leave the soup section (sans seeds). We were face to face, and I was momentarily blocking her path. Not wanting to interrupt her conversation (unless it was with a sharp blow to the back of the skull with a large can of Italian Beans) I stepped aside and mouthed the words, "I'm sorry!" to her as she passed.
"Oh honey, you're fine!" she beamed at me. Apparently, she didn't mind interrupting her lecture to Carl for pleasantries with a fellow shopper. "No, Carl! Not you! I was talking to this gentleman in the store! Carl? If you take those kids over there you'll be sorry! This is ridiculous, you hear me? You hear me, Carl? Don't you- What? I said it's ridiculous! Carl!"
By now we were hooking up yet again, this time in the baking goods aisle. I found a little rack of seed-like products! Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans. No sunflower seeds. Pine nuts. What the fuck are pine nuts? I almost bought the little bastards because they were shaped a lot like shelled sunflower seeds, but the seven dollar price tag nixed that idea. Dammit. Here she came, again.
"I think you should just call her back, Carl! Call her back! Tell her you can't! No! You hear me? Carl! Just tell her no! She can get off her lazy ass and come get those kids! Carl! She can drive over and get those kids! It's not any further for her than it is for you, Carl... It's not any further for her than it is for you, Carl! She's got a car, Carl! You paid for the damn car she's driving, Carl! You bought that car for her, Carl! She can come get those kids, Carl!"
I grabbed a bag of almonds and headed to the checkout counter. Fuck sunflower seeds. I was pretty sure I wasn't going to find them in the dogfood/toilet paper/bread/ice cream/dairy or beer aisles, and I'd had enough of Carl's story. The woman still had an empty cart. I began to think that maybe we were all being filmed for an episode of "Punked" or something... a candid camera involving a loud woman on a cell phone and the reactions she might get from unsuspecting shoppers as she shared her conversation with them in the store.
Then I realized how fucking stupid THAT show would be and went back to my original theory that cell phones are the bane of modern society. In traffic, in theaters, in restaurants, in malls, in every place where one might expect a moment or two of personal space... there they are. Ringing, chirping, beeping, and playing the ice cream truck version of "Low Rider"...
Bless Carl's poor ass, though. I'd jump off a bridge before I'd answer another call from that woman OR his ex, if it were me. Poor bastard. Somewhere out there in the world is one badgered, beat-down, hectored shell of a man who probably used to have a set of balls and some sort of joy in his life. Of course, those balls and all that happy testosterone-sloshing "joy" is the reason he's catching hell from two women these days, so I guess it all works out. My lovely (and dangerous) wife tells me the sunflower seeds are indeed back in the produce section. Good to know. The slaw was great without 'em.
Well, the Fab Four of the blog war being waged over at ThankQ for Common Sense has begun the semi-final round, and I've been tossed into the arena with the Goliath of the competition. At the start of the contest I had 43 followers, most of whom were dead people I registered on my site to make it look like I had a following. At press time Brandon from My Own Private Idaho was sporting 439 disciples, and all of them vote. I'm not good with numbers, but that's more than ten times as many followers for his blog compared to mine. Heavy sigh... But I have faith. Indiana Jones will swing in on a bullwhip to save the day, or Clark Kent will find a phone booth, or maybe Brandon will be merciful and surrender...
If you have time, I'd really (!!!!!!!!!!) appreciate it if you went over to Quincy's place and looked on the right hand side of the page for the contest between Squatlo Rant and My Own Private Idaho. Both of our blog contributions are in the main text of the page, so you can read each story if you want to be one of those sticklers who has to give everything a fair and impartial judgment. I'd greatly prefer it if you just went over there and voted for Squatlo and then found something worthwhile to do with your time. This silly shit's probably already cost you five minutes.
For what it's worth, each person who votes for Squatlo Rant will receive 75% of the prize money! Do it for your children! Think of the kids!