Sunday, October 29, 2006

View from the stands, part II.

Whoever had the bright idea to create a mash-up of "Rhapsody in Blue" and "Bohemian Rhapsody" for that field show should be forced to mark time in 95 degree heat until they drop.

The fact that the kids in the band in question (who are innocent bystanders here) performed it beautifully (so much so that they won the Sweepstakes Field Show Award) in no way negates the fact that the piece was Just. So. Wrong.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A Time To Kill?

The Mad Priest posted about the execution of Jeffrey Lundgren in Ohio this week. He asks three good questions, the last of which is "what good is killing anyone?"

In my comment to his post, I said I could go on for hours about capital punishment, but I wouldn't. Not there, at any rate. But this here is my soapbox, and this issue has been a major concern of mine for years.*

I oppose capital punishment in all forms on religious grounds. However, I recognize that others may not have such beliefs, and I have met people who I otherwise respect who accept capital punishment "in theory." And I recognize the damage that murder does to a community and the way in which capital punishment is seen as taking steps to repair that damage. (Whether it actually can or does is another matter.)

There are three reasons to support the death penalty: specific deterrence, general deterrence, and retribution. Specific deterrence, meaning that the individual who committed the murder cannot murder others if he or she is executed, is a morally supportable position, in my view. General deterrence, meaning that others will be dissuaded from committing murder if murderers are killed, sounds nice, but, absent other considerations, is not much more than the barbaric proposition that we should be willing to execute individuals to provide an example to others. Furthermore, studies have shown that general deterrence simply does not work.

Which brings us to retribution as a justification for execution. Whether or not you view retribution as a morally justifiable position depends a lot on your religious and world view. Personally, I have a very hard time reconciling retribution with the view that all individuals are made in God's image and therefore are endowed with innate human dignity. I know others that feel, however, that not executing murderers somehow dishonors their victims. I would like to think that this country has moved beyond simple bloodlust, but I recognize I may be wrong.

All of that is in the realm of abstract moral reasoning.

However, the way capital punishment is practiced in America is capricious and obscene. Capricious, because the same murder in Detroit or San Francisco will land you in jail for the rest of your life, but in Dallas will end with you with a needle in your arm. (Accidents of geography occur on a much smaller level as well: a murderer in San Francisco is less likely to get the death penalty than the same murderer in Orange County, even though they are operating under the same set of laws.) Obscene because the risks of people being put to death who do not deserve t0, either by reason of incompetency or by reason of actual innocence, are so high as to create a virtual certainty that it will happen.

It used to be that proponents of capital punishment argued that the safeguards in the system would protect the innnocent. As that facade of surety has become more and more tattered, at least one proponent has recognized the inevitable. In 1997, Representative Bill McCollum of Florida stated "I don’t think there’s any question that someday somebody who is innocent will be executed in this country again.” McCollum went on to say that he believed capital punishment deters crime and helps victims’ families grieve.

So it's okay to execute someone who is innocent as part of the larger war on crime. Aside from the fact that studies have shown that the death penalty does not deter murder, what does it mean when we say we need to execute someone to give the victim's family "closure"?

That's not justice, that's blood vengeance.

It is so fatally easy to point to the monsters. John Wayne Gacy. Henry Lee Lucas. Ted Bundy. Danny Rolling. Surely, these men who brought such terror and grief to so many families should die. Everybody knows about these walking embodiments of evil.

But what of the other side of the coin?

There have been cases of police and prosecutorial misconduct, and cases where exculpatory information was kept from the defense. There have been cases of inept or completely incompetent (or in one case I have read of, drunken) defense counsel. And that's not even touching upon the racial and economic inadequacies. (I think it is very telling that the prosecutors in the O.J. Simpson case did not even pursue a death sentence -- they knew, given the sort of counsel he could afford, that they would not get it. Now contrast that with how they would deal with the average defendant accused of lying in wait to brutally stab two people to death.) Not to mention issues that potentially plague all criminal cases: the problems with eyewitness identification (widely used even though studies have shown it to be often inaccurate), use of jailhouse informants or desperate potential codefendants to obtain convictions, etc.

There is the question of competence. Not of competence to stand trial, which is an entirely different and distressing kettle of fish, but of competence to be killed. It's an odd concept, I suppose. I guess as a nation we have enough decency to admit that maybe we shouldn't put to death people who are too far gone out of their minds or too mentally limited to understand what is happening to them, although there are people who would argue even about that.

There is the case of Oliver Cruz. In 2002, the US Supreme Court ruled in Atkins v. Virginia that executing the mentally retarded constituted "cruel and unusual punishment". They explicitly reversed a decision of only thirteen years prior, when they found that retardation was no bar to execution. This didn't help Cruz, who had confessed to being involved in rape and murder, even though he had an IQ of 64, and the officers who arrested him testified he had no capacity to understand what he was doing when he waived his right to silence. The other evidence against Cruz was the testimony of a co-defendant, who had gotten a plea bargain. The co-defendant was not impaired -- at least not mentally. To add the final sickening touch, the prosecutor argued that Cruz's impairment made him more of a danger to society, therefore he should be executed. The jury agreed, and Cruz was executed in 2000.

A few years ago, the Supreme Court finally decided that executing the insane violated the Eighth Amendment's strictures against cruel and unusual punishment. (Insert irony break here.) So far, so good. However, a few years later, the same court decided that it was permissible to forcibly medicate insane prisoners so they were sane enough to execute. One victim of this unspeakable decision was Charles Singleton, who was executed in January 2004 in Arkansas. Singleton, who had been diagnosed as delusional, psychotic and a paranoid schizophrenic, was given anti-psychotic medication so that he could be sane enough to be killed.

However, the bloody icing on the psychiatriatric-capital punishment cake came in 2004, in the case of Bell v. Thompson. Gregory Thompson had been tried and convicted of murder, and sentenced to death. His appeal was rejected. Thompson was scheduled for execution on August 19, 2004. In June, his attorneys filed a motion claiming he was incompetent to be executed (you can't execute insane people).

The Circuit Court of Appeals reviews the evidence on this second claim. An intern for one of the judges finds a deposition in the original trial from a clinical psychologist that was extremely probative of Thompson's mental state at the time of the crime. The deposition was not included in the materials sent from the District court, so presumably had not been reviewed by the District Court. The intern -- who was a licensed psychiatrist --- took this to his Circuit court judge, who reversed his opinion in the underlying case, thus sending it back to the District Court.

The state argued that the execution should proceed because the Circuit Court took too long to reverse its decision, and was precluded from rehearing it. The ultimate technicality.

The Supreme Court agreed.
Which means a man who was quite probably schizophrenic at the time he committed his crime, who had incompetent counsel, who an appeals court said should have a new trial, will be executed because the Circuit Court's decision that he should be given a new trial came too late and was technically insufficient. He currently sits on Tennessee's Death Row -- a stay of execution was granted earlier this year, and has not yet been lifted.

Then there is the issue of time. In Texas you get ninety days after sentencing in which to discover all possible evidence that might not have been brought forth at trial which could prove you are innocent. In Florida, you get all of six months. (Except for DNA evidence: in Florida you have two years, to submit DNA evidence, provided you did not plead guilty. So, if your attorney talks you into pleading guilty, but the DNA evidence exonerates you, you're totally screwed.)

And it doesn't matter why the deadline was missed, either: your attorney screws up his calendaring? Too bad. Doesn't matter. You're as good as dead. And in Virginia, until recently, there was no requirement that the court preserve evidence after a conviction -- so they can destroy that pair of bloodstained scissors that was presented at the trial, to free up space in the evidence room . At least until the Supreme Court stayed the execution of Robin Lovitt in July, 2005. Virginia governor Mark Warner then stepped in, commuting Lovitt's sentence to life in prison without parole -- one day before his rescheduled execution.**

And it's not just the Big Three (Texas, Florida, and Virginia) that have such restrictions: fifteen states have shorter time limits than Florida. Eighteen more have limits between 1 and 3 years. Only nine have no limits on the introduction of new evidence. All of this matters because at this point the average time between conviction and release for prisoners on death row is seven years.

These things matter to somone like Rudolph Holton. Holton spent 16 years on Florida's Death Row, until DNA evidence exonerated him in 2003. He is certainly not alone. Since 1973, 23 people have been freed off of death row in Florida alone. In 2000, Governor Ryan of Illinois was so troubled that 13 men had been freed from death row in his state that he instituted a moratorium on executions.

There is a grim irony in all of this. Law and order types for years have been screaming about defendants walking free on "technicalities," such as gasp! violations of a defendant's Constitutional rights. They are perfectly willing to resort to technicalities not based on anything but a need for efficiency and "finality of judgment" and "closure" to kill people.

Because, of course, executing people who might be killers is so much more important than sparing people who might be innocent.

"Kill 'em all, let God sort 'em out" is not morally defensible legal policy.

Ah, but why not simply correct the abuses? Leave the death penalty in place, but change how it is administered?

Because the very existence of the death penalty creates pressure for it to be applied. Supposedly only for the most heinous murders, what qualifies as a capital crime seems to be expanding all of the time. In Montana, Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Carolina, sexual molesters of children face the death penalty for repeat offenses. (Thus creating an incentive for murder -- if you're going to be executed anyway why not kill the only witness and increas your chance of escape?) Who is to say where the line between "horrible enough to execute" and not is to be drawn? Do we really have the wisdom to say who deserves to die?

None of us is God. It's about time we stopped acting as though we were.

* In 2000, I was so appalled by GW's record on capital punishment while governor of Texas, I registered Republican to vote against him in the primaries. He had been extremely dismissive of any suggestions that there was anything wrong with the Texas death machine system of capital punishment -- to the point where I figured he had to be either too stupid or too amoral and willing to play politics with people's lives, and either case was unfit to be President. I think actually the answer may have been "all of the above."

** Lovitt's case is noteworthy also because his appellate lawyer was Ken Starr, the former special prosecutor. Even a conservative like Starr can understand the need for the death penalty to be carried out with the utmost care.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Odds 'n' ends.

No, I don't want to discuss the NLCS. Go Tigers.

I now have 32 complete soundtracks: in addition to the original Broadway production of Follies, I now have South Pacific in Concert, with Reba McEntire, Alec Baldwin and *swoon* Brian Stokes Mitchell.

For all of its manifest shortcomings (mediocre selection, abysmal organization), the iTunes music store beats hard CDs hands down for one reason: no packaging. My fingernails are so much happier when they don't have to try and scrape those stupid plastic labels off the cases just to open them.

When I was in fourth grade, my mother came home from parent-teacher comferences ready to kill me because I was doing very poorly in reading. This was in spite of the fact that I read at an eighth grade level and had read through the class reader the first week of school. I just never did the book reports or turned in any of my homework. Karma's a bitch: I had a parent-teacher conference very much like that last week -- on the other side.

The middle child has taken up wrestling, which is good. He is threatening to use his wrestling moves on his younger brother, which is not so good. His younger brother taunts him, seemingly believing that he (younger brother) won't get in trouble whatever happens. This is very bad -- also incorrect. I am trying to teach nonviolence, but on the other hand, if little brother got smacked occasionally, he might think twice before trying to instigate trouble.

The new dark peppermint chocolate ice cream at Coldstone Creamery is trés yummy.

At dinner tonight, my husband and I decided that the Germans have the best stews, the Dutch do the best breakfasts, the French the best desserts, but without a doubt the Spanish have the best bar food. We said this while finishing off our second small dish of "datiles diabolados" (deviled dates: dates stuffed with chorizo and wrapped in bacon and broiled). This followed the scallop fritters, and the garlic sausage toast, and the flamenquin (pork roll with cheese, breaded). (We skipped our usual patatas bravas and gambas alla plancha.) Oh, and the little bitty cheese scones. Now, if we could only find a tapas place that served brie broiled with raspberries, like that one pub off the Plaza Major in Madrid, and a place that did proper churros con chocolat, we'd be all set.

I have decided not to do NaNoWriMo proper, but I am working on other projects and decided that the NaNoWriM0 framework (set impossibly high goals with specific limits) would be useful. I did do NaNoWriMo three years ago, and managed to finish my very bad novel; proving if nothing else that I could type 53,000 words in a month. Besides, all the cool kids do NaNoWriMo, and I like hanging out with them.

Just 16 days until election day, Pat Tillman's birthday.

In California, Kansas and South Dakota, Monday is the last day to register to vote. There are sixteen states which have not yet completely closed registration as of Sunday, October 22. (Some of them have closed mail registration.)

And... just seventeen days until "no more annoying misleading television ads" day.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Honoring the fallen...

I have just stumbled across this tribute to soldiers and veterans buried in Arlington National Cemetery and elsewhere. I find it profoundly moving, and thought I would pass it along.

The view from the stands....

Some observations from tonight's band competition:

I'm sorry, but no matter how well they do it, seeing girls in harem outfits toss rifles just looks weird. "Look, a harem girl! And she's armed!"

Those drum major salutes are getting perilously close to resembling Arnold Rimmer's.

I see the vogue for dressing drum majors up in costume seems to have waned this year: only Indiana Jones showed up at the awards ceremony.

I was on the wrong side of the field, but I couldn't see how the pit* members were being dressed. Last year, at one competition, the pit walked onto the field wearing bi-color work shirts. The woman next to me looked at each other in confusion -- what were they, fast food workers? They looked like they belonged behind the counter at Arby's. Then the rest of the band came on, including the guard with checkered flags, and the announcer cheerfully declared they were doing a NASCAR-themed show, and it hit us: they were the "pit" crew. *groan* And then there was the pit that was dressed up like clowns. These guys don't get no respect, I tell ya.

They need to institute as rule saying that any given guard member can touch no more than four pieces of equipment during the show. It just gets excessive, guys. One band I saw had, I think, four sets of flags alone, not including rifles and sabers and other things.

There was a band which seemed to have a fire theme show followed by a band which had a tsunami theme show. Guess which show did better.

When the grand sweepstakes award trophy is over half as tall as the guard captain of the band that wins it, maybe it's time to reconsider the size of these things.

Ah, well. It was fun. Two weeks until the next one of these things.

*The pit is composed of all the pieces of percussion down front that don't march: chimes, gongs, xylophones, etc. Pit members [don't] march to the beat of their... oh, never mind.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Today, at the elementary school, they had the "fall festival." Part neighborhood meetup and part PTA fundraiser, they had all the sorts of things you find at events like this: ring tosses, raffles, a silent auction (whoever had put together the auction had done a very good job; the items actually seemed worth their estimated value). And soda, and popcorn. No sno-cones, since it is mid-October, and even in California it's too nippy for sno-cones. And cotton candy.

Fresh pink cotton candy.

None of that stuff that you see at some school events, which is sold in prebagged clumps, oh no: a real spinning machine, churning out pink puffiness that looked like it belonged in a Barbie Dollhouse somewhere. That pre-bagged stuff is stale; for although cotton candy never really goes bad -- how could it? it's nothing but sugar -- it does go flat. Bleah. Then it is good for nothing but as part of gingerbread house displays come Christmas.

Pink, by the way, is a flavor. There are three flavors of cotton candy, generally speaking: pink, blue, and purple.* And as those colors don't map to any flavor known to man other than "sweet, with some vague unidentifiable overtone that makes it different from the other colors," it just makes sense to refer the flavor as "pink."

The girl who made my stick was an amateur, meaning the strands were woven so loosely that the clump was incredibly light and airy -- a sugar cloud. (More experienced hands make a slightly denser product, simply so you actually get something for your fifty cents.) That was okay, it was delightful.

Adults eat their cotton candy with their hands, tearing off dainty bits and placing them on their tongues so they don't get large smeary sticky streaks across their face. Instead, you get hands that would do Fred Biletnikoff proud. I decided just to eat mine like a child. It melted away, leaving me with a sticky face and a big smile, just like when I was ten.

Best fifty cents I've spent in a very long time.

*I have seen, on occasion, bizarre flavors such as "pina colada," but they are an abomination.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Cataloging the collection

According to my iTunes, I have 825 songs (3.08 GB, 0r 1.8 days worth) in my "Explicit Broadway" playlist.* (My "Clean Broadway" playlist is the same set, minus part of Rent and a lot of Hair and the odd song from other shows. As my kids have gotten older this is less and less an issue, so that I never play it anymore.)

I have ...

30 complete soundtracks. That will be 31 as soon as my CD of the Original Cast Recording of Follies shows up from (It will also be my second version of Follies: I also have Follies in Concert. I wasn't quite happy with the FiC version of my two favorite songs, "Would I Leave You?" and "I'm Still Here," so I ordered the original.)

Songs from 104 other shows. This is mainly thanks to the five disc soundtrack to the documentary miniseries, Broadway: The American Musical. A friend gave it to me last year, and it was the best Christmas present I had gotten since The Big Book of Baseball when I was twelve.

A lot of Sondheim: 6 1/2 complete soundtracks (West Side Story counts a half since he wrote the lyrics); and one or two songs from 7 1/2 other shows (Gypsy counts a half since he wrote the lyrics).

There are no other composers that have anywhere near the same level of representation; the closest would be Kander and Ebb (2 complete soundtracks -- would be three but I have been procrastinating on buying Cabaret) and Lerner and Lowe (2 complete soundtracks). I have two Stephen Schwarz soundtracks, but quite frankly Wicked was a mistake.

Andrew Lloyd Weber? 4 songs. And 3 those came on the compilation album.** In fact, of the Cameron MacIntosh produced megaproductions, the only one that I have a complete soundtrack for is Les Miserables.

Chronologically, the songs run from "When the Moon Shines on Moonshine" from Zeigfield Follies of 1919 (1919) to "Show Off" from The Drowsy Chaperone (2006). Eighty seven years of music, although I mainly listen to the last forty of those.

The interesting thing is, I know how inadequate all of this is. I have next to no Rodgers & Hammerstein, or Rodgers & Hart, and only Anything Goes by Cole Porter. And that in revival. I'm not really keen on Jerry Herman, so I think I'm fine with Mame and a couple of the tracks from La Cage Aux Folles.

I guess the tip-off for me that things were getting a little out of hand came when my youngest son (a.k.a., the red-headed Don Quixote) and I had the following conversation a month or so ago:

Me: "Will you guys pipe down? I'm trying to watch the Emmys! They only come on once a year!"
Boy, bitterly: "Well, the Tonys only come on once a year, and you didn't watch them."
Me: "And you're annoyed about this?"
Boy: "I sure am!"

I've created a monster.

*Okay, so I'm not a purist. I include a few movie soundtracks in here as well, for movies that had stage incarnations: Chicago, Hair (I have the full Broadway and half the movie soundtrack), and yes, The Rocky Horror Picture Show.

** The compilation album also had "Memory" from Cats, which I deleted from my computer. Just don't get me started on Cats.

By this vote we honor...

Most states have instituted a "Vote in Honor of a Veteran" program. People decide to vote in memory and to honor the service of specific members of the armed forces who have served overseas. This is a great idea: men and women in uniform deserve our respect and honor for all they have done in service to our country. (Although fully funding veterans services would be a much more meaningful way to honor them, but I digress....) And recognizing individuals who are otherwise anonymous is a good way to take note of the fact that the battles are fought and won by many people, most of whom go unrecognized by anyone.*

But there are a lot of people who were a lot more directly involved in the fight for the right to participate in democracy.


Vote in honor of Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth.

Or in honor of Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.

In honor of Alice Paul and the women of the Occoquan Workhouse.

In honor of Fannie Lou Hamer.

In honor of Medgar Evers.

In honor of James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Shwerner.

In honor of every legislator at the federal and state level who voted for the Fifteenth, Nineteenth, Twenty-Fourth or Twenty-Sixth Amendments, or the Voting Rights Act.

But most of all, in honor of those men who pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to bring forth this bizarre experiment in representative democracy which has managed, somehow, to survive for over two centuries.

*I am totally serious when I say I think our veterans need to be honored more than they are; it's just that I think a far better way to do that is to a) actually pay them decently when they're serving and b) provide decent benefits for after they leave, and for their families if they should be killed or disabled and c) fully funding Veterans' services and d) not sending them off to quagmires with no rhyme or reason. I also have issues with the idea that we subcontract out the protection of freedom to the military, when many of the gravest dangers to freedom have historically lain right within our own borders. But that's a post for another day.

The water and the stone.

Can we be like
drops of water falling on the stone
Splashing, breaking
Disbursing in air
Weaker than the stone by far but be aware
that as time goes by the rock will wear away
"The Rock Will Wear Away," lyric by Holly Near, music by Meg Christian

Over at Adventus, I have been in a discussion about whether or not changes in the Congress this fall will make any difference at all. He proclaims, pessimistically, that nothing will be any different, that we're all kidding ourselves. I think he's wrong, I hope he's wrong, but maybe he isn't.

So why bother? Why bother voting? More importantly from my standpoint, why bother trying to get other people to vote?

I have always been involved in voting efforts in various small ways. I registered voters during two different presidential campaigns. In 2004, on my own dime I flew to Florida to be a poll monitor with Election Protection. In 2004, and again this year, I have posted information in various journals about registration and voting rights.

I want people to vote. It matters. It is the first step to an involved citizenry. The next step -- and I try to work on that one too -- is to talk, and listen, about the important issues that need to be addressed. Other people do that better than I do. Me, I do voting. It's not sexy, but there it is.

But why bother, if it is not going to change things?

The first answer is obvious: it's not just about Congress.

It's about city councils and mayors, and affordable housing initiatives, and school boards and parcel tax referendums, and county commissioners and parks and rec bonds. It's about what sort of prosecutors and judges carry out justice in our community.

In California this year, it's about whether a girl can get an abortion without her parents being being notified beforehand.

All these things affect our lives more on a day to day basis than what happens on Capitol Hill. For example, when faced with the need to close a school, the school board where I lived picked for closure the 85% Hispanic school, which served not only as a school but a community resource and where most of the students walked to school. This was in spite of the fact that the committee which had investigated school closures had picked another school as being the best candidate for closure, a school where the parents were quite vocal and organized. After tremendous community outcry the school board changed their decision, but guess what incumbents I am voting against next month?

So it's about those things.

But it is also about responsibility.

I cannot open the cell doors at Guantanamo. I cannot make torture illegal again. I cannot restore habeas corpus to detainees, or bring troops home from Iraq, or any one of the myriad things our country is doing in the world that make me weep for the blood on my hands.

All I can do is try to influence the people who have the power to do that. I can write letters, send emails, make the occasional phone call (as I did over the Military Commissions Bill). I can try to get others to act, including giving people information that will make it easier for them to vote. I can write. That's my gift.

If I do not, I wash my hands in the face of evil. I become like Pilate.

I do not know how to atone for my country's sins, but I can refrain from adding to my own already large pile of transgressions through inaction here. I have to work towards change, even if that change is slow in coming, even if that water falls onto basalt, not chalk. Even if in the end, the rock does not give way, no matter how much water rushes over it.

The other alternatives are despair beyond hope, or denial, or insularity -- we've got ours, the rest of the world can go hang (and will).

I'd rather be a drop of water.

Persecution complexes

I thought of blogging about the horrific situation of Christians in Iraq, but then Mad Priest already did that.

You hear some American fundamentalists whine about how Christians are "persecuted" in America. Do they even fathom what that word means? Do they have any idea what Christians face in Iraq, or Algeria, or Vietnam? Or in any number of places where professing your religion can get you arrested or killed?

"Persecution" does not mean "People get angry with me when I proclaim the U.S. a Christian nation." Persecution does not mean "I have to refrain from using public funds and public spaces to prostelytize for my own flavor of Christianity." "Persecution" does not mean "It's awful that I am forced to deal with people who say 'Happy Holidays' instead of 'Merry Christmas.'" Heck, it doesn't even mean "People tell me I'm silly for believing in a miracle that happened 2000 years ago" or "People get mad because they think Christianity is responsible for most of the institutionalized evil in the world since Costantine," even though that hurts a lot. (I know, I've faced those myself.)

Persecution means having your priest abducted and killed because the Pope made some less than judicious remarks for which he has since apologized (which were taken out of context, but which were not that smart to begin with). Persecution means having your daughter raped on her way to school because she is a Christian. Persecution means having to hide your Bibles -- or not have them at all -- because they are dangerous contraband. Persecution means being beaten or murdered for holding church services.

Persecution means something as simple as wearing a cross becomes a political statement.

I would never wish real persecution upon American Christians who feel "persecuted." I just wish some of them would look around at the larger world a bit.

Update: Yet another case of real persecution, this time from India, as passed along by the Mad Priest. Gee, nothing like having a bunch of people beat you up for your religious beliefs and then you being charged because of it.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Absence makes the heart grow fonder... and the ballot is just as important

Just in case you can't make it to the polls -- or, in many states, don't want to actually go to the polls -- on November 7th, absentee ballots and early voting are just the ticket.

Some states allow any registered voter to vote absentee, some require a reason. Some states also have some form of "early voting," where voters can go to specified locations (usually county election offices) and cast their ballots. The National Conference of State Legislatures lists the states with "no-excuses" absentee voting, and early voting.

There really is NO EXCUSE for not voting.

Absentee voting and early voting has already opened in many states. Listed below are links to where you can find information about absentee voting for each state. Information about early voting can also be obtained from county election offices.

Arizona [contact county election officials, information at link]
Colorado [pdf]
Georgia (Georgia is unique in that it has "no-excuse" absentee voting by mail, but you have to have a reason to vote absentee in person -- the exact reverse of many states)
[by mail]
Michigan Note: If you registered by mail, you will need to vote in person before you are eligible to vote absentee
Mississippi [you have to contact county officials for information on absentee voting]
New Hampshire
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina [pdf]
North Dakota, early voting
Oregon Note: elections are conducted completely by mail; if you're registered, you'll be sent a ballot. If you don't receive a ballot at least two weeks before the election (October 24), contact your County Elections Office
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Washington Note: 34 of 39 counties in Washington have elections by mail, you should receive a ballot in the mail. If election day approaches and you have not received one, contact your County Auditor
West Virginia
Wyoming [pdf, Voter's Guide, includes lists of county clerks]

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Baseball, hurrah!

The real baseball season is over. Now the playoffs begin.

My beloved Mets* are in there, starting out against the Dodgers. They smoked the regular season, but as the other adult in my house can tell you, regular season performance means squat at this point. *cough*Atlanta*cough*

The hated Yankees are in the playoffs too, again, against the Tigers. Is there anyone in the country outside of NYC not pulling for Detroit? They were next to last in their division last year! And the year before that, and the year before that they came within one loss of breaking the 1962 Mets record for most losses in a single season, setting the American League record for single season losses in the process. They give hope to those of us who root for perennial bottom dwellers -- like my boys in St. Petersburg.**

The As, who I'm pulling for because they're the team local to me that I actually like (Giants -- boo! hiss!), are playing the Twins. The As are good guys, it would be nice to see them advance out of the first round.

And the Cardinals (eh) are playing the Padres (eh). Albert Pujols is fun to watch, though.

And one of the best parts? The Braves are not in the playoffs, for the first time in forever, which means I will not have to deal with the other adult in the house being in a bad mood after they are (inevitably) eliminated.

Play ball!

* In case you're wondering how a Florida girl became a Mets fan when she had never been to New York and had no relatives from New York, they used to train in St. Pete, before moving across state to Port St. Lucie. On the other hand, for a long time I was a fan of the Los Angeles (now St. Louis) Rams football team because I liked their helmet design. So you never can tell.

**They would be the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who play in Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg. I started to write "my boys in Tampa Bay," but that would have made them awfully soggy.

Sunday, October 01, 2006

A Random Act of Kindness...

Yesterday was Jeffrey's birthday.

Yes, that Jeffrey. Toys' R' Us's giant giraffe mascot. To celebrate Jeffrey's birthday, the TRU near us had several events, handed out noisemakers, and had a special Pokémon giveway.


No, not meow. Mew. It's a Pokémon. And if you have a Game Boy Pokémon game, you cannot get Mew. It's not in the games, unless you download it from elsewhere. Rumor has it that you can download them in Japan. Yesterday, you could bring your Game Boy Advance and your Pokémon game to the store and they would download Mew onto your machine free of charge.

I agreed to take my youngest to get Mew. (His brother wanted Mew, as well, but had lost his Pokémon Emerald Game, so he was out of luck.) I had been fighting a migraine, and had taken some heavy duty meds, so we left as soon as they had worn off enough so that I could drive.

The event ran from noon to three. We arrived at 1:45 and the line was out the door. Not a problem -- even at that the line was not that long, and we didn't have to leave until 4:15.

Except the line did not move. It turned out it took five minutes to download the Mew -- you had to actually play the game and trade something for the Mew -- and there were people who had brought multiple games to put the Mew onto. So we stood and stood and stood. Me and the youngest -- the middle child had gone off to sit in the car -- for two and a half hours. And we were still forty minutes from the head of the line when 4:15 arrived.

We had to leave. The marching band was playing a "Community Thank You" performance ("Gee! Thanks for putting up with us practicing at seven o'clock in the freaking morning!") and I had to be there. I was torn.

My youngest son rarely asks for anything. I usually have to take his brothers hither and yon, and he gets dragged along all the time, usually without much complaint. Just this once, he should have been able to get what he wanted.

The lady behind us in line with her daughter kept trying to help us find a solution. Finally, she said "Give me the Game Boy. We'll get the Mew, and I'll give you my phone number so we can arrange a time for you to pick it up."

My son was ecstatic. I was relieved. We turned over the Game Boy, raced over to the high school, watched the show -- or at least most of it -- and decided to dash back to TRU while the eldest was changing and putting up his equipment. We got back to the store just as our angels had reached the head of the line. Delighted, my Pokémon trainer got his Mew. He traded a level 8 Pichu for it. (You do realize, of course, that I have no idea what that signifies.)

We said thank you -- my son over and over -- and managed to get to within five minutes of the high school before we got the call from the drummer that we needed to pick him up. And all day today, all I've heard is how wonderful Mew is and how grateful my son is to me for having taken him the store and waited for two hours so he could get it. (And how this gives him bragging rights among all his Pokémon playing buddies, but that he's going to be nice about it and let them play with Mew too*, some.)

So, somewhere out there, is a very nice lady with a very cute daughter who should know that they have made one boy very very happy.

*Not Mewto; that's a different Pokemon that you can only get by going to "Pokémon Rocks America." PRA 2005 occured in five (!) cities across the country, and had things you could only get by attending PRA. I met a man there who had driven his kids six hours to get to the one we were attending. I decided not to tell him that the only reason we were there was a) it was 20 minutes from my house and b) it was free. Unfortunately, my son lost the game he had loaded the Mewto on, or he would now have a set of insanely hard to get Pokémon. Unlike TRU, the lines moved a lot faster, and there were a lot of things going on other than just waiting in line to get the Mewto. I will be so glad when they outgrow this or, as was the case with the three teenagers in line in front of us on Saturday, learn to drive.