She Choked

Voting sign taped to the floor of the gym.

It was more getting it over with than anything else. The FBI made some Friday droppings. I thought I could put all the tawdryness behind me by voting. It would be done, for me anyway.

Bumped into the mayor and her folks at the rec center turned early voting site. She wasn’t running this election cycle. She and her very nice mom and dad were doing their civic duty. As we were. We did the politico handshake. She exhorted us to vote for Statehood. She did her job. 

There wasn’t much of a line in the gym. We warned the poll workers that the boss was outside. They appreciated that and we became fast friends. 

As I walked up to the new-fangled electroNiX voting machines, I asked if they were ever going to use the same system two years in a row. My attendant was pretty sure that they were going to stick with these. They were fully accessible, supported multiple languages and created a print record for a potential physical recount. Seemed pretty thorough. 

I got my one-on-one voting tutorial. This was a high touch process. Not very scalable. Made me extra glad the line was short. And so was my ballot. 

Now it was just me and the computer screen. It had a white background. I guess it was a skewmorphic attempt at paper. The names for President and Vice President lined the left side of the screen. This was easy. Too easy.  I hovered my finger over the names of Hillary Clinton and Tim Kaine. 

As I pressed the screen, my choice lit up. As I pressed the screen my emotions lit up. I became all choked up. Surprised the hell out of me. This was to be a business transaction, and instead it hit me at my very core. 

I just voted for a woman to be President of the United States of America. And she very well may win. 

Sneaky feminist patriotism. Got me right in the feels. 

Electoral Collage

Hiding behind his ballot in the gym.
Hiding behind his secret. Ballot, that is.

A hot mess. That’s what Washington D.C. is today, this day before the 2016 presidential election. A complete, stressed out, finger biting, hair twirling, obsessively pen clicking, twitter refreshing, hot mess.

It seems that people are leaning on their car horns more today. Folks are walking into quick eat restaurants, standing in line for a minute, swiveling their heads around and leaving. If they stumbled into the dark relief of a bar, they might sit. I heard FBI director Comey was seen in a Tex Mex joint with a huge margarita. I hope it didn’t leak.

Everyone in town is doing their own personal Nate Silvering. They’re making state electoral count combinations and recombinations–moving states pink to red or purple to light blue–with dispatch and false authority that would wipe the smirk off that smirky Chuck Todd from NBC. This is the guy who’s been having intimate relations with the colors on the map since before there were two actual candidates.

Some are walking the streets, catatonic. Some because they think their candidate is going to lose. Others because they think the other candidate is going to win. There’s some serious negotiations with the political gods going on behind their deadened eyes.

Other levels of disbelief or worry or even hubris are worked out via chatter. Some are chirpy assessments of turnout and lines and campaign stop strategy. Why is he and she going to Michigan? Is it close? Naw, it’s because none of them voted yet. I heard from this friend, super liberal democrat guy, real good guy…

Some are just piling their worries in the laps of their companions. Some are wondering what they can do. Some are actually doing something, signing up and making last minute calls, knocking on doors, getting out the vote.

A group of people said they aren’t watching any more TV. They’ve sworn themselves off social media. You can tell since they are using social media to make that known. You don’t really quit in D.C. Not really.

But tomorrow, maybe as early as 10 p.m., eastern time, maybe much later, there will be some people in Washington that will feel as if they were kicked in the stomach. The blood will drain from their faces. Tears will well in some eyes. Fists will pound tables. Garments will be rend. Teeth will be gnashed. Profane words will be spoken. Loudly. And repeatedly.

And then, but not until then, we will know not just who will be President of the United States, but the status of our democratic system.

The peaceful transfer of power. I have confidence in my fellow Americans. And my prayers are stuck on us.


Expiration Date

Expired milk, dated February 5, 13

We all have an expiration date. It’s not public like those on milk, meat or medicine.  We don’t know what that date is, and, despite a few exceptions, there aren’t many clues.

We can look at mortality tables and sort for age, income, race, education, hereditary risk factors, geography, smoking status, BMI, you name it. You can see gross patterns, but that doesn’t give you an idea about an individual.

You know, the obese, diabetic smoker who had two heart attacks and continues to cantor at her church into her late seventies? Or that amazing teen baller with an undiagnosed heart hiccup–undiagnosed until he dies on the court that is.

Even people with what have been considered death diagnoses can beat their odds. See, for example, Stephen Hawking. See also, for the converse, Iron Man Lou Gehrig who played every game for 17 years with the Yankees before succumbing to ALS at 37.

We know of non-smokers dying of lung cancer and heavy smokers living a long life. A brain aneurysm can strike at anytime, and don’t get me started on accidents.

30,000 people will die in a fall. 33,000 in a vehicle. 38,000 will be accidentally poisoned. Some people will get hit by a bus. Some will be caught in the crossfire from a shooting. Some will simply not wake up. Nobody knows why. And nobody knows who. Or when.

Like in finance, past performance does not necessarily predict future results. Bottom line, we’re all going, we just don’t know when.

On the way to going, people get sick. Could be a cold, hypertension, zillions of different infections, heart disease (the #1 cause of death), auto-immune diseases, cancer, muscular degenerative diseases, I dunno, look it up. Lots of ways to get sick.

And when people get sick, they are not necessarily debilitated. People can have cancer and undergo treatment while minding their families and being productive at work. One colleague went through weekly chemo treatments for breast cancer for months and only she and our boss knew. She soldiered on. And anyway, being sick–even a very serious or a chronic condition–doesn’t equate with mental incapacity.

So, I’m wondering, why does anyone need to know intimate details about a President’s health? We do know that the sickly Franklin Roosevelt died in office, during his FOURTH TERM, after leading us through the Great Depression and a pretty big War. And did the maladies of John Kennedy make him a lousy president? Would we have landed on the moon if people had a copy of his physical? I don’t think that the Constitution requires our president to wrestle bears or chop wood or ride horses to be leader of the free world. Really they just need to be 35 and born in the U.S.

Journalists, and others, have been hankering for more information from current presidential candidates about their health. But stepping back, what does that tell us about their policies or decision making? Pretty much nothing. It’s a snapshot in time. It doesn’t stop a heart attack. [Ask former one heartbeat away from the presidency VEEP Dick Cheney.]  It doesn’t stop a bullet. It doesn’t stop the effects of Alzheimer’s before it’s detected. See also President Reagan who was reelected after being shot.

The out of proportion focus on medical records is ultimately an ableist point of view. It doesn’t recognize that people with different abilities, different health profiles and different health risk factors can be effective leaders, too. I think it’s a huge stretch to argue that someone so sick that they wouldn’t be able to perform the duties of the presidency would pursue that responsibility.

But even if they did, we have an entire process to manage it. It’s called the 25th Amendment to the Constitution. It clarifies all sorts of presidential succession issues and even allows that if the VP and the Cabinet believe the president is losing it, the VP can temporarily take over as Acting President. If they have a fight, because the president disagrees, Congress makes the final call.

So we got it covered. It’s all good. Move along. There’s nothing to see here. Just a bunch of much noise about nothing.

P.S. I’m looking at the data from CDC, turns out that 57,000 people in the U.S. will die of the flu and pneumonia each year. Get your flu shot. It just might help.


Here's a patriotic elephant, looking all U.S.A. And his friend, the patriotic donkey, also 'merica'd out.

My dad was a New Deal democrat. He had a spate as shop steward at his factory before me and my sibs were conscious. He filed a grievance after he was fired for taking the day–not the whole day–to bring my mom home from the hospital. She was in the hospital to have a baby. Me. He won. For the other guys, too.

I remember him saying that the union should negotiate for a new dental benefit–of which I begot my straight teeth–rather than incrementally higher wages. He thought he was paid well-enough and that the real value of organized labor was ensuring that his family had access to the tools of good health. He was also for the vision plan.

He worked at the forge plant. In Hamtramck. His toughest days were those days when he had to put out fires. Literally. He’d come home smelling of burning factory with a bit of ash on his cheek as he made his way to the shower. On days his relief didn’t show up, he had to stay at his post. He’d work a double. He couldn’t leave.

He’d get two days off in a row. Each week they would slide one day over so once in a while he’d have a “weekend” off. Weekends weren’t a big part of our family life since the school weekend rarely coincided with his work weekend.

Every fifth or sixth week–I don’t exactly remember but I had it down pat when I was negotiating hard to schedule a trip to Cedar Point–he’d have three consecutive days off. He worked every Christmas Day that I can remember, except one. The calendar dice didn’t roll that way. He did get double time for our troubles. Oh, and he was the only man at ballet class. Again, literally. The only. He took me every week. Sometimes twice a week.

My dad lied to get into the Navy. He said he was older. He was as much looking to sow oats, of the wild variety thank you very much, as he was to serve. He did both. With distinction. His tats displayed ports in Panama, Honolulu, Manila, Cairo and Cyprus. I never asked him if he sailed through the Suez Canal. I’m thinking about that scene when Lawrence of Arabia looks up from his dusty desert journey to see a ship floating out of the sand. I bet Dad rolled through those sandy straits on a U.S.N. boat. I betcha.

He didn’t talk about his service. I know he did a small stint on a sub, which he hated, and once, offhandedly, he said something that made me know that he knew what embalming fluid smelled like.

After the Big War and a stint stateside after he married and after his discharge, he joined the union.

My dad was also a Reagan Democrat. He had no love for a naval officer nor for a peanut farmer. He was frustrated by an awful economy. The auto companies were on life support. There was a steady exodus to the south for jobs. Jobs with less pay, no benefits and no security. He felt betrayed by his union, was adrift from their agenda. He was offered  a buyout deal to get rid of the guys with seniority. To replace them with lower-waged grunts without the same protections.

He took his decent pension. He took his terrific health benefits. He asked me to look at the agreement because he thought my mid-college educated opinion had value. Any value from that request accrued to me. I didn’t add anything to his thinking, since I agreed with him, but he catapulted me into a new part of my life that was grown and independent and validated. Because my Dad believed in me enough to ask my opinion on something important to his life. Jeez.

But, I digress.

Reagan spoke of resolve, of strength and of the promise that is America. My dad didn’t care about taxes. He did care about the U.S.S.R. He was susceptible to the racist dog whistles of busing and welfare queens with big TVs. He cared most about our future. He saw the solutions for that future through the lens of the past.

I railed against his wrong choice of candidate and party with the fervor of a young idealist at the beginning of life’s trail. He respected my disagreement, and we were never disagreeable.

He voted as Dad (R-MI) for Reagan and Bush 41. Then things got a little murky. I don’t know for sure when he started voting D again, but I know that he voted for John Kerry over George W. Bush. He was cagey about his vote for Al Gore, but based on his disgust over the hanging chads and the results, we think he pulled the D lever. And I know without any doubt at all that he thought that George W. Bush was an idiot. I have no doubt because he told me. More than once. Frequently using colorful language that would crack me up.

I would call home and he’d pick up the phone. We’d exchange a few pleasantries and then he would go full tilt into current events. Not conspiracy crap. Not anybody’s party line. Nope. He would read the newspaper (I don’t know how given he was mostly blind) and listen to the radio and watch multiple newscasts, including the Sunday morning public affairs shows. So he was always well informed. And he had a definite point of view.

I loved how he’d get riled up, and we’d get a good exchange going. Then, in the background, I’d hear my mother shouting, “SPOUSE! SPOUSE! What are you talking about? NOBODY cares about what you think.”

She was wrong. I cared very much. He kept me plugged in to where I was from and provided an analysis that I could agree or disagree with, but was an articulation of one American’s legit point of view.

She’d grab the phone away sometimes, just giving me and Dad enough time to share our I-love-yous as the receiver left his hands. But I’d get to talk with him next time, likely the next week, and we would continue. I would just say George Bush to him sometimes. It was my trigger to get him going. I was never disappointed.

My father never had the experience of watching Barack Obama run against Hillary Clinton during the 2008 election. My last discussion of national polictics with him was in early June of 2007. I don’t know if he would have cast a vote for our first African-American president, but I really believe that he would. Because of how I know, I mean knew, him.

I’ve been thinking about my Dad a lot during this presidential campaign dirge. Mostly, I’m thinking WWDD? What would Dad do?

Would he be enraged and engaged with Trump? I don’t really see any of the other Rs inflaming his fancy, but there are some parts of Trump that might appeal to him. Would he settle on Hillary as a solid, but flawed, answer for the next four years? I can see him eyeballing Sanders, especially his fervor over Wall Street largesse, but it’s hard to project him as a Bernie Bro.

I use my Dad as a lens to understand good people that I may disagree with. It’s not really right, though, because I can’t stop seeing his depth of field colored by my own focus through my memories of him. My view of him limits how I can use his view. It’s like a hologram of Tupac singing with Snoop, you can literally see through the facade. Or maybe it was just all a dream, an interpretation.

I’ve been thinking about this for months. I’ve created scenarios and opinions that may not be supported by the historical evidence. Maybe me using him, how I contort him to be my representative of a smart, white, working class man, may be simply ridiculous.

And, if I’m perfectly honest, I just might have to say that I don’t actually know WWDD. But I bet it’d be interesting to find out. Damn. I wish I could find out.

Morning Mist

When she breaks the dream mirror with her dreaming brain in Inception.

I dreamed about Hillary Clinton in one of those in between the snooze alarms hazy dream sequences. It was one of those dreams you remember because you were just awake and then almost awake but only in your head.

I was someplace doing something. Oh, now I remember. It was at my mother-in-law’s. The new puppy my spouse brought home just peed on the treadmill. As I was cleaning it up, the house suddenly–but without surprise–morphed into some kind of market. Someone was asking me a question, and it turned out on closer inspection (or maybe a dream-swap) to be Madame Secretary herself.

I found myself walking with her through the market. She stopped when she saw a stroller. She asked me how old the baby was. I immediately went into staffing mode to find out. I was struck, however, that Clinton was by herself. I wondered about her absent entourage. She didn’t appear to have any helpers or handlers or protectors. Perhaps the crevices of my mind were a safe space for the candidate.

I moved the stroller canopy up. There were two babies in the stroller. The babe in the front was maybe 15-18 months old. I saw another set of little hands around his waist. The baby was in the other baby’s lap. I looked up and saw the mom. And the dad. And maybe a friend of theirs.

At first I couldn’t tell  if they recognized Clinton. Hillary gave the mom a pen that had appeared in her hand. It seemed like she was giving the woman a pen so the woman could request an autograph. She asked about the family. The woman looked off-balance and a bit overwhelmed, but said “Thank you.” I don’t know what for.

There was a deli in the market. As people surrounded us, someone in a white apron walked up. Clinton ordered a serrano ham and manchego sandwich. The deli person offered something different, maybe their speciality? Clinton crisply repeated her order. I thought it was a cool sandwich to ask for and wished that I was as well travelled and versed as Madame Secretary.

As I got jostled in the crowd, I lost Clinton. I returned to my search for the puppy urine cleanup solution. I walked out of the market and spied our car with its trunk wide open. It wasn’t actually our car, but in the dream it was.

Some teenagers were taking the beer out of the trunk. Other people were looking in the trunk for goodies they could nab. I shooed them away, retrieved my stuff and locked the car. The car was pulled up next to a motel. There was a couch that appeared on a porch that materialized. I sat down. The mother of the beer stealers sat next to me. She was watching TV. The TV was inside a room just off the porch.

I realized that my sweater was on wrong. I saw the beer stealing teenagers around the side of the porch. They glowered at me. They saw their mom and, like a switch, sat down and became friendly, in that sweet way that young people can be curious and engaging.

Someone else asked me about the puppy who I now saw. He had been sleeping next to The Beast in this other unknown space.

The alarm sang again, interrupting the dream. I cleared the madness away, stretched my arms above my head, swung my legs over the side of the bed and started my day.

What a disjointed set of thoughts, I thought. I don’t think that they mean a thing.

Bouncing After the Convention

My favorite part of the convention:

Where did they FIND this guy? Give that person a raise, and put Barney Smith first! What a regular guy. Did a more natural job than many of the professional pols.

I wrote this poem for one of my McCain supporting friends, whose kids have been known to chant Obama around the house.

Your Continued Wrongness

YOU said that Dems (Hillary supporters esp.) should be pissed
cuz your folks keep ginning up that Hill was dissed.
Guess you didn’t see your guy McCain was hissed,
and that your other guy, W, won’t be missed.

Another dull speech by our guy Kerry,
didn’t stop the convention hall from making merry.
And the hatchet by both Hill and Bill was burried,
all the precurssor to the 40 states that Barack will carry!

Yo yo yo, and wait till tonite when in his speech,
Barack Obama will rise up to meet,
another man who wouldn’t take his assigned seat
45 years ago even tho the mountaintop he did not reach.

And when the conventions are all done,
and this election is fully run,
Barack Obama will have won.
Mark my words, your daughters will rejoice, Son.

Yeah, not too good, but it’s been what I’ve been thinking about. And it rhymes.

No Foul

Hillary, Chelsea and Bill Clinton, a long time ago. (Photo, National Archives)During the never-ending “news” stream from the TV, a talking head said that Chelsea Clinton was asked about Monica Lewinsky at an Indiana campaign stop for her mom. Our talk around the TV went like this.

“Awww, that is just not necessary.”
“Well, they are pimping her out.”
“Yeah, but this is just out of bounds.”
“Good for her, she told them it wasn’t their business.”
“She’s a grown woman.”
“She was a kid at the time.”

It was the protective parent that made me jump to Chelsea’s defense. The campaign is not about her personal experiences at such a tough time.

Then, tonight (while watching an another awful American Idol, David Archuleta go home!) I read the coverage only to see that the question was not out of bounds–not a mean question about Chelsea’s personal esperience–but about whether Hillary Clinton’s credibility was damaged by her comments during the Lewinsky scandal. Not about how Chelsea felt. Not about how her mother and father coped with the scandal. Not about the chill around the White House breakfast table. Now that would be none of our business.

The kid at Butler State in Ind., asked a legitimate question. It was HRC who blamed a “vast right wing conspiracy” for yet another in a string of unfounded accusations against her husband. But turns out it wasn’t Clinton enemies, but a fact. The question asked was, what does that say about Hillary’s judgment? Now that is our business.

It is uncomfortable for Chelsea to be confronted about the Lewinsky scandal, but really, everyone knows about Bill’s thing with the intern, and Chelsea is publicly campaigning for her mom. Not out of bounds.

My Sib texted that my niece saw Chelsea today at one of the Clinton college stops in Ind. My niece reported that there were alot of Obama signs in the audience. That’s legitimate, too. But no being mean to Chelsea.

What Are People Looking For?

Amy Winehouse in London. I think this might be from AP.I was poking through Google’s toolset and stumbled on Google Trends. Google says that their Trends (in beta) can let you “see what the world is searching for.” Among the cool features, you can compare trends on different search terms over time and by region.

So, you can see that U.S. users had a spike in searches for Amy Winehouse, and that Amy tracks higher than Britney. Across the pond, Brits were generally less interested in learning about Amy, and more in Britney.

You can also track the relative popularity of Kanye West and 50 Cent. Fitty famously promised to retire from music if Kanye’s CD outsold his on the day they were both released. 50 had more searches than Kanye through most of 2007–until the release of the CDs. Kanye queries killed him on that day, and has been a bit ahead ever since.

So, what about the Democratic contenders?

Google search trend data shows Clinton queries ahead of Obama queries for much of 2007Well, Hillary Clinton (red line above) was ahead of Barack Obama (blue line) during the long pre-primary season. Interest in both candidates picked up at the end of December, going into the Iowa caucuses. Since then, people have been looking for information about Obama more than info about Clinton–and on some days by much more.

Even more interesting (at least to me) is the regional trending.

Line graphs showing Obama ahead in Iowa, Clinton up in N.H. and tie in S.C.By December 2007, Obama (blue) was ahead of Clinton in Iowa, which he won. Clinton (red) was more interesting to people in New Hampshire, and she won there. And South Carolina queries at the end of the year were pretty even for our intrepid candidates. [Obama ended up winning S.C. handily at the end of January.]

Anybody picking up a trend here? It looks like people might be looking for stuff that they are interested in. This can be troubling for the Clinton campaign if you take a look at what people are looking for now in Texas and Ohio.

It's crazy--Obama queries are way up from Clinton in both Texas and Ohio.The Google Trend for the past 30 days sees a large gap between searches for Obama (still the Blue Line) and Clinton (Red Line) in these two key upcoming primary states. Tuesday will tell, but as far as people looking for candidate information, it appears that they are more likely to be seeking information about Obama. Or maybe how to contribute to his campaign. Or how to volunteer. Or who knows. Maybe they already know enough about Clinton.

This Google Trends stuff is so cool. And despite the fact it skews to Internet users–more educated, more white, more wealthy– it’s now the Doc’s zeitgeist poll.

Spirit of the Law

You parents out there. You know how your kids can be barristers? You know how they can parse words when it suits them? Like:

Me: I said no online games.
Him: Well, actually you said that you hate online shooting games, and this isn’t a shooting game.

Me: Homework needs to be done before goofing around.
Him: Well, I did finish my homework. I just didn’t show my work, and I didn’t understand problems 3-18, and I didn’t bring home my social studies so how could I read it?

Her: I am having a fundraiser-not campaigning.

In our community (okay, in my house), I don’t accept parsing of words to get around the intent of the agreement. The boys know the right thing to do, and I am not going to have an esoteric argument because I didn’t cover every possible variation of circumstance. Especially the stretch of circumstance which would allow the child to do what he wanted to do DESPITE the fact that it had been disallowed.

The point is: You know better.

By Any Means Necessary

Four of us were in a car headed for lunch: 0ne very conservative Republican, one Dem-leaning independent, and two pretty consistent Democrats–an Obama supporter and an undecided.

“I don’t want them back!”
“I’ll vote Republican before voting for HER.”
“How can I be friends with you if we fundamentally disagree on stuff like immigration.”
“Continually, and LOUDLY, distorting facts –even after the distortion is exposed– is swiftboating.”
“Who has executive experience?”
“Why is that important?”
“I’m voting in the Republican primary. I don’t want to make a decision on the Dems.”
“I don’t want them back!!!!”

I don’t get why some folks are so nostalgic for the “good ole days” of the Clinton administration. While in my opinion those eight years were better than Bush I or Bush II, I also think that having both legs amputated is better than dying. This doesn’t mean that I am excited by the “losing my legs” option.

Diana Ross sings on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial during Call for Reunion Concert for the first Clinton InaguralI remember my exhilaration sitting on a blanket on the Mall; handing the then 16-month-old Cheerios on a pleasant January day; and oohing and ahhing when the F-16s flew over the Lincoln Memorial and Aretha and Diana sang on the steps for the First Clinton Inaugural Reunion. It was the first time I ever voted for a president who won. It was the first time since I had been in Washington that my side was in charge. It was a day of great hope. (oops, did I say “hope?”)

Monica and Bill in a grainy black and white photo taken in a White House office.I remember my disgust and discomfort when I had to tell the then 7-year-old that his President was in trouble for telling a big lie. I remember my anger with President Bill for dragging the country through his linguistic histrionics about “that woman” and his definition of the word “is.” And I felt, at that time, that no matter how much the opposition wrongly chased the Clintons, no matter how disgusting and irrelevant the never-ending Ken Starr investigation was, he and his wife made a fatal misstep with me by not taking any responsibility for their own actions. It was always someone else’s fault. They did what was right. It was a vast right-wing conspiracy causing the President to lie under oath. Or to quote Jake Blues, trying to talk his way out of being executed by a jilted lover, maybe it was “… an earthquake. A terrible flood. Locusts. IT WASN’T MY FAULT, I SWEAR TO GOD.”

Based on the past weeks of an increasingly uncontrollable attack-dog Bill, I am getting a bit spun up about who would be in charge and who would be leading the charge in (yet) another Clinton White House. And, I am saddened by the take no prisoners, by any means necessary approach of the Clinton campaign.

So Hillary, go ahead and get after your opponents on the issues–and experience is a legitimate issue. Make it clear how you stand for change and provide a contrast with the other candidates. Show that you care about what is important to “people like me”‘s all over the country.

But remember, when you take on the bad-guy tactics of swiftboating, when you distort facts, when you try and shift blame to the media or others, when your old man is out of control acting like an over-indulged child who feels entitled to his own Oompa Loompa, you may end up having softer support in the general election than you need– potentially grabbing a Democratic defeat from the Bush-43 engineered jaws of victory.

You’re likable enough, Hillary. But I am looking for a noble warrior. Fight fair and let the best candidate win.