Brigette Bardot

Brigette Bardot

Monday, December 31, 2007

Why Caucuses Rock!

There are those in the media who don't like caucuses. They refer to them as "quaint" when they feel generous and "arcane" when they don't. But having grown up in Iowa, and can tell you first hand that the caucus system is awesome. For those of you who don't know how the caucuses work, here is the Readers Digest version from Wikipedia. Please note, this is only the Democratic Party version, the Republicans do it differently:

The caucus is generally defined as a "gathering of neighbors." Rather than going to polls and casting ballots, Iowans gather at a set location in each of Iowa's 1784 precincts. Typically, these meetings occur in schools, churches, or public libraries. The caucuses are held every two years, but the ones that receive national attention are the presidential preference caucuses held every four years. In addition to the voting, caucus attendees propose planks for their party's platform, select members of the county committees, and discuss issues important to their local organizations.

Participants indicate their support for a particular candidate by standing in a designated area of the caucus site (forming a "preference group"). An area may also be designated for undecided participants. Then, for roughly 30 minutes, participants try to convince their neighbors to support their candidates. Each preference group might informally deputize a few members to recruit supporters from the other groups and, in particular, from among those undecided. Undecided participants might visit each preference group to ask its members about their candidate.

After 30 minutes, the electioneering is temporarily halted and the supporters for each candidate are counted. At this point, the caucus officials determine which candidates are "viable". Depending on the number of county delegates to be elected, the "viability threshold" can be anywhere from 15% to 25% of attendees. For a candidate to receive any delegates from a particular precinct, he or she must have the support of at least the percentage of participants required by the viability threshold. Once viability is determined, participants have roughly another 30 minutes to "realign": the supporters of inviable candidates may find a viable candidate to support, join together with supporters of another inviable candidate to secure a delegate for one of the two, or choose to abstain. This "realignment" is a crucial distinction of caucuses in that (unlike a primary) being a voter's "second candidate of choice" can help a candidate.

When the voting is closed, a final head count is conducted, and each precinct apportions delegates to the county convention. These numbers are reported to the state party, which counts the total number of delegates for each candidate and reports the results to the media. Most of the participants go home, leaving a few to finish the business of the caucus: each preference group elects its delegates, and then the groups reconvene to elect local party officers and discuss the platform.

I know, it's a lot harder than showing up at the polls and casting a vote. But what makes it hard is also what makes it great. I have no problem with Iowa going first in the country because they don't just vote, they debate, they listen, they struggle to make a decision, and they don't do it in anonymity, they do it in front of their friends and neighbors. That's right, no secret ballots, you have to stand up and say "I support this candidate and here is why." This is the essence of Democracy, this is the will of the people being decided together, at the local level.

And you know what else I like about the caucuses? Morons don't usually take the time to participate. There, I said it. I hate the fact that idiots can decide who my nominees for President are going to be and in Iowa, it takes a truly motivated idiot to make that happen.

In fact, after seeing what happened during the last Presidential election, I think the whole damn country should be forced to caucus.

When George W. Bush gets re-elected, I just know that there were people voting for him who never would have had the guts to look their neighbor in the eye and defend their decision.

So, the next time you hear someone complain about the caucus system in Iowa, take it with a grain of salt. In fact, tell'em to really look into the facts. It might be harder to participate, but the quality of the participation more than makes up for it.

And nothing makes a person do their homework like having to defend their position in public. That is why Iowa should go first in the country and that is why they should continue to caucus, because by the time these guys leave Iowa, the world has a pretty good idea who they are.

If you want more information on the Iowa caucuses, here are a few decent links.

IowaCaucus.com

Wikipedia

IowaFirstCaucus.org

Monday, December 24, 2007

For Christmas, a few little presents from the world of news

I want to wish each and everyone one of you a happy holidays, merry Christmas, super-duper Kwanzaa or whatever it is you're celebrating as the year comes to a close. As a little gift to you, here are a few news stories worth checking out.

You bet he is...

JACKSON, Miss. — He's a 19-year-old pipe layer; a deer-hunting, dirt-bike-riding former high school class president who still lives in his tiny Mississippi hometown. So why are the paparazzi hot on his trail?

Because Casey Aldridge is an expectant father — and the mother is 16-year-old Jamie Lynn Spears.

You know what else he might be? A criminal. Let's do the math, she is 16 and he's 19. Under Louisiana law, where Spears lives, it is a misdemeanor for someone age 17 to 19 to have consensual sex with someone age 15 to 17 if the difference between their ages is more than two years.

But that isn't what drew me to the story, it was the lead. Read it again. That reporter was certainly grinning when he wrote that one.

Oh well, I guess you can take the girl out of the trailer park, but you can't take the trailer park out of the girl. This poor family. They had hit the Disney jackpot, and now they are a laughing stock. I just hope Brit and her sister can find a way to normal, no one deserves this.

AP: Jamie Lynn Spears' Baby's Father Is in Hiding

Top Ten List Horn O' Plenty

I love a top ten list. Pretty much any top ten list. Top Ten Most Disgusting Things my Dogs have Eaten. (Regurgitated cat poop comes in at number four.) Top Ten Uses for WD-40. (Dissolves dried manure from work boots is an appropriate number two on the list.)

Any top ten list is probably going to grab my attention. David Letterman had people like me in mind when he turned the top ten list into comedy genius. I used to plan my entire evening around the Letterman Top Ten. I was obsessed. But after successfully completing a ten-step program, I'm better now.

So, if you love a top ten list, Time Magazine has the Top 50 Top Ten Lists of 2007. Movies, songs, news stories, inventions, games, scandals, quotes, TV ads, and much more, everything you could want from a list of lists. It is a cornucopia of list fun.

BTW... I can't believe Britney Spears' disastrous half naked train wreck at the MTV music awards only made number 6 on the Top Ten Most Awkward Moments list. I don't even like the girl and that was really hard to watch.

Time.com Top 50, Top Ten Lists

Exit: Stage Left

The wife and I love the awards shows. Ok, she has loved them for longer than I have. I am late to the awards party as it were, but when you get married, your spouse leads you to discover new things, and for me, it is the celebrity lovefest that is the red carpet and awards shows. But my most favorite part of the big awards shows is the "Bring Out Your Dead" section. All those great clips and "I didn't know he/she had died" moments. If you can't wait for the Golden Globes, here is a slideshow from MSNBC.com

Hey...I didn't know that Ingmar Bergman had passed.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Missed it by that much...

The ice storm that has killed more than 20 and has left hundreds of thousands without power, missed us. Not that we weren't prepared. All of the stores were out of sidewalk salt, the airport cancelled flights, Chi-town was prepared. Of course, that means we got missed.

I just hope that the three or so inches of snow we have on the ground lasts until Christmas. If it is going to snow the first week in December, the least it can do is stay around and make Christmas look the way it is supposed to look.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

The Thought Police

One of the things I love about this country is the protection of speech. In other countries men and women are currently sitting in jails facing sentences as dire as death for merely speaking out, for having opinions, for saying things that spark debate. But in America, within reason, we can stand up and speak and are heard by our fellow citizens. The marketplace of ideas that stands a cornerstone of our democracy is well-stocked and allowed to flourish.

Or so I thought.

You see, some of the things a marketplace of ideas contains are disgusting. They offend the heart and spirit. But in doing so, they reaffirm our own beliefs. When the Ku Klux Klan has a rally, I am reminded of why I stand for tolerance and diversity. When I hear war hawks talk of bombing, I know why it is I support diplomacy and peace. And when I hear well off men and women talk disparagingly about the poor, I know why it is that I am a Democrat.

But perhaps the marketplace is not as well stocked or protected as I believed. In Wisconsin last week, a teacher was arrested for a posting on a blog. In that posting, the teacher and former teachers union president praised the Columbine shooters. He, according to the news report, "wrote that teacher salaries made him sick because they are lazy and work only five hours a day. He praised the teen gunmen who killed 12 students and a teacher before committing suicide in the April 1999 attack at Columbine High School."

He then continued to write, "They knew how to deal with the overpaid teacher union thugs. One shot at a time!"

Even if this was an attempt at satire or sarcasm, even if it was a parody of his perception of those who oppose increasing teacher pay, the words are vile. They are at the least ill-chosen and at the worst insensitive and offensive. But what they are not is criminal.

However disturbing or disgusting I may find these statements, you can count me among those who support his right to say them. Why? Because when the prevailing winds of opinion or politics change and my words are found offensive, I don't want to be sitting in some jail hoping that cooler heads prevail. And you should feel the same way.

Whether you are a right-wing nut job or a left-wing pinko commie, you have the right to speak. And you should not be jailed for your words, you should not be arrested for having an opinion. It is not the role of the state to regulate this type of speech, that right falls to a free society. As consumers in the marketplace of ideas, you have a right buy or not to buy. You even have the right to boycott, but the government should not and cannot arrest a man for writing such words, even if they are offensive to the heart.

The American armed forces have bombed and killed innocents on the orders of our government. I find it offensive. I don't believe the war was justified and the constant drum beat of war propoganda coming from the mouth pieces at the White House is painful for me to hear. But it is not criminal, it is essencial to the public debate about the future of this country.

So I beg you, read the words of this teacher and be offended, but recognize the law that should protect him from prosecution is the same law that protects you and me. It is the same law that allows me to publicly disagree with the President on the war. It is the same law that allows the morons in my town to blame every problem "on those damn illegal Mexicans." And it the same law that keeps us free and our democracy alive.