Archive for election

Horse Race

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 6, 2008 by tigereye

OK, bear with me. This isn’t exactly about what you think it’s going to be about.

I’ve watched the Triple Crown races as long as I can remember. For anyone who doesn’t know, a horse named Big Brown is poised to be the first horse in 30 years to win the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. It’s a big deal, although to be fair, he’s the 3rd horse in about 8 years to have won the first two; a lot of times, things go wrong for them in the Belmont.

But this is about something else.

Remember Secretariat?

He was possibly the greatest racehorse of all time. He won the Triple Crown in 1973 and set records in all three races, including one in the Belmont that will probably stand as long as any of us will live. But what most people don’t know is that among the field of horses he beat over and over was a racehorse named Sham.

Any other year, Sham probably would have won the Triple Crown himself. He had beaten Secretariat once before the Kentucky Derby (although Secretariat had an abscessed lip and was running a fever at the time). He was a great contender. He led the field briefly in the Derby before Secretariat, who had been dead last, came up and outran them all. After the race, it was discovered that Sham had knocked out two teeth coming out of the gate, so he wasn’t at his best when he lost, either.

In the Preakness, Sham was out in front again, and Secretariat came from last place like a rocket. He passed the entire field of seven horses in fourteen seconds. I’ve watched it on YouTube and it’s such an incredible performance it almost looks staged.

By the time they got to the Belmont, these two horses had fought it out for the lead twice already. Both had outstanding records; both had expert jockeys; both had that competitiveness that’s so humanizing in racehorses.

I can only imagine what they must have been thinking, going into the gate at the Belmont, seeing each other again, each knowing the other was the real competition.

Sham: I’m not going to lose to him again after coming so close.

Secretariat: How many times am I going to have to beat this guy?

They both went right for the lead in the last race, neck and neck for what seems a long time on a grainy video clip. Then Secretariat pulls away, slowly at first, then lengthening and lengthening his lead. It’s one of the most jaw-dropping athletic feats I’ve ever seen: he leaves Sham and the entire field behind by thirty-one lengths. It’s almost a sixteenth of a mile.

Sham, physically and probably psychically devastated, finished last.

Any other year, he almost surely would have won it all. But he just happened to be running at the same time as an incredible competitor. It was terrible luck for him: both horses were winners, had competitor’s hearts, had run with injuries, had fought it out for the lead almost all the way.

If it hadn’t been Secretariat’s year, it would have been Sham’s. He was good enough — he just met up with a champion.

I am a Barack Obama supporter (I was a John Edwards supporter, to be honest), but at times I have felt absolutely wretched for Hillary Clinton. I bet she feels like Sham. Any other year, any other (less badly run) campaign, and I would have been honored to vote for her. Hell, if she’d won the nomination, I would have.

She just happened to meet up with a champion.

When Secretariat died, and a veterinarian performed his necropsy, he was stunned to find that the horse literally had the biggest heart he’d ever seen. It wasn’t malformed or abnormally enlarged, it was just much bigger than the normal equine heart.

The same vet, it turns out, performed the necropsy when Sham died. And Sham had the second biggest heart he’d ever seen. Second only, of course, to Secretariat’s.

 

 

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Please — Let the Door Hit You on the Way Out

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , on February 8, 2008 by tigereye

Well, Mitt Romney is gone and I won’t miss him.

As far as I’m concerned, this guy was the Republican equivalent of Dennis Kucinich: the epitome of everything I dislike about his political party. He’s obscenely rich and spent part of every speech dwelling on it, something even Ross Perot had the decency to avoid. On top of this, he railed on about tax cuts for the rich as if he’d starve without them, and then made it clear that he didn’t give a damn if the poor did starve — it would be their own fault, wouldn’t it?

I’ve never really seen a Republican standard-bearer as proud of his party’s more despicable beliefs than Romney. Man oh man, he’s for the war: for your kids, poor folks, not his. His kids were, I believe the phrase goes, “serving their country by working in this campaign.” How noble of them. If he’d become president, I suppose this means I could count 1992 as a year of service to my country, since I spent it working for Bill Clinton’s first campaign. Then again, I’m poor, so I don’t think in Romney’s America I could count for anything.

His was the most bitter, whining concession speech I’ve ever heard, and it was followed by the bitter whining of the whacko wing of the Republican party, all those small minds and enormous egos gathered in one room at the conservative PAC meeting yesterday, most of them wailing in chorus about being stuck with John McCain. This was such a repugnant batch of people, they’re willing to turn their backs on one of the most decent men in their party. Well, do whatever you want, Republicans — I’ve never understood it, and if you’re the kind of people who genuinely want a craven egomaniac like Mitt Romney to run this country into the ground, I’ll never care, either.

At least now the extremes of both parties are out of the way, because as I’ve said, I have no more use for an egotistical wingnut like Kucinich either. I suppose it’s good for the country that we’ll let anyone run for president, because we invariably shove them aside, but then again, it’s like turning over rocks in a garden and getting a good look at the vile, squirming insects that live beneath them. I’ve had my good look. Now Romney can go away for — hey, this will be the first time anyone ever says these words about him! — four more years.

Voting in the South Carolina Primary with a Bullet in my Head

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 27, 2008 by tigereye

It’s hard to work up any enthusiasm for the Democratic process when it’s a Saturday, you have to work, and a migraine that feels exactly like a bullet has lived over your left eye for nearly two days. All I was concerned about yesterday morning was getting to work without either fainting or throwing up all over the house and the car. At least this gives things a little perspective: I already had my candidate picked out, but frankly, if any Democrat from the previously cluttered field had approached me and said, “You know, if you vote for  me, I’ll get rid of that headache for you and funnel some money into migraine research at the National Institutes of Health,” I’d’ve seriously considered changing my vote. I probably wouldn’t have changed it for Kucinich, whom I despise for his oversized ego, but any of the others would’ve gotten a second look.

By now, we all know how everything shook out in the SC Primary. Not only did Obama win big, a record number of Democrats voted, which is a good sign, meaning a few more people have shaken off whatever line of conservative political bullshit they’ve been fed at church on Sunday by a preacher with an agenda, or maybe they’ve told a blathering Republican coworker or boss to go screw themselves when that person is expounding about the Republican party. Southern Republicans are possibly the most self-righteous chunk of the American electorate that I’ve ever had the misfortune to experience firsthand. They’re mostly to blame for my loathing of Republicans in general — or at least they’re as much to blame as the official idiot mouthpieces like the entire staff of Fox Anything. I know a few Republicans that I like, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy: it just means they’re exceptionally likable, and I still have hope for their conversion.

And here’s something everyone else is probably thinking too: I’m sick of hearing about the impact race had on this primary. Good God, every journalist sent into the south by a newspaper or a network, major or otherwise, rattled on about racial politics to such an extent you’d think they’d been dropped onto the set of a movie occurring in 1968. I wondered where they stayed and what they did while they were down here. When they left their hotels, did they glance nervously around them in a search for evidence of racial strife? Did they go into restaurants and public buildings and start counting black or white people under their breath? Did they feel pressured by their particular media outlet to perpetuate this crap? What the hell got into these people for the past week or two?

Because look, people, I’m not nuts about living in South Carolina, but it’s not for any racially motivated reason. (Frankly it’s got a lot more to do with being surrounded by Republicans.) This is not 1968 or 1958 or any time generally associated with southern racial disharmony, which is not to say I’m the kind of clueless dolt that believes racial or sexual equality has been reached anywhere in this country. We’ve got a long way to go there, in SC or in California or in Texas or in Massachusetts.

Every time a black person and a white person interact in the south, ominous brooding music doesn’t play in the background, and the two people in question don’t look at one another like the Sharks and the Jets are about to face off behind them. It’s not like being on the set of “Mississippi Burning” every time you accidentally bump into someone of another race with your cart in the grocery store: you excuse yourself and move on, not planning revenge and not feeling assaulted. (Just because the grocery store is a great place to pick a fight doesn’t mean Publix is going to segregate.) This is generally true for friends and acquaintances and total freakin’ strangers. Sure, once in a while there’s going to be some jackass on hand to stir up trouble, like whatever Godforsaken asshole hung a noose on a tree in Louisiana, but if you’ll all check the news, this is true all over the country, from the northeast to the southwest.

So we had two weeks’ worth of reporters trying to fit one primary neatly into the frame of racial disharmony they’d brought with them, tucked between their microphones and their overcoats. Will black people vote for Clinton? Will white people vote for Obama? Uh, yes to both, guys, and it’s pretty insulting to have heard these questions for the first time in SC after going through three previous primaries without anyone spending an entire broadcast on race. The real question that should’ve been asked was, Will all those people in SC whose (Republican) Congressmen and (Republican) senators and (Republican) governor have acted like they couldn’t care less about job loss and lack of health care ever wise the fuck up and remember that the last time our economy looked this bad was right after Reagan and Bush, and every time Americans are convinced to put another (lying, clueless) Republican in the White House, the economy tanks? I’ve heard and heard all about how bad things look in Michigan, but I’d be shocked if it looked significantly worse than things do here. Jobs have been leaving the south since the eighties, when good old Reagan started handing out tax cuts like Halloween candy to every rich business-owning asshole in the country who might want to move his business overseas, and the ones in the south just happened to be near the front of the line. Education isn’t the answer, either: I have a degree with honors and can’t find a job. And by the way, no one has ever addressed the real problem of re-educating workers in the south, which is How the hell are they going to feed their families and pay the rent while they’re “getting new skills” in the job retraining that no one I know has ever seen down here? You don’t get paid during job retraining. Tell that to Mitt Romney and watch his multibillionaire head explode because a poor person just talked back to him. That’s class politics, and there’s more of that going around than you’d think.

There are a lot more immediate problems down here than racial politics. Racial politics never made anyone go through their grocery list and cross off all the stuff they want and need but can’t afford. Racial politics isn’t making companies pull up and move to China. And racial politics isn’t why more Democrats just voted down here than Republicans did. Whoever covers the campaigns needs to get a new slant for their story — which I’m sure they will, now that they’re moving on from SC — and start asking, Will a southerner vote for a Democrat? Hopefully the answer is yes, no matter what race the southerner is. And maybe the eventual Democratic candidate can do something about the bullet in my head, even if it’s just getting me some decent affordable health insurance and/or a good job. You know, the real issues. The stuff that crosses racial and gender lines. The things that gave the Democratic party a victory yesterday along with one of its candidates.

Bite My Democratic Ass, Dennis Kucinich

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 18, 2008 by tigereye

Well, someone has to say it.

I figure every week there’ll be at least one major screwup from a candidate, so if I don’t have a heartwarming moment in American political history to record, I’ll have one to laugh at instead. I was going to snitch the Ron Paul blast-from-the-bigoted-past from last week, which felt a little unfair, since Ron Paul, in all his crotchety Rip Van Winkle-ish glory, will be remembered when the 2008 election is over as That Crazy Old Dude, if at all. But he’s been superseded by someone I can make fun of from within my own party and not feel the least bit bad about it.

Honest to God, Kucinich — I mean, really

I guess this makes me a political snob. I tend to look at the also-rans most of the time and try to decide who’ll eventually be part of the cabinet and who’ll be lucky to appear in group debate pictures a year or four from now. So far I think Joe Biden and Christopher Dodd will probably get some recognition by whoever ends up winning the Democratic nomination, and, God willing, the general election, but I’m not willing to go any farther than that.

I have some friends who appreciate Dennis Kucinich, and speak highly of him, and that’s fine. Like Chuck Berry says in the live version of “My Ding-a-Ling,” which wouldn’t be entirely out of place as Kucinich’s official campaign anthem, it’s a free country, so y’all go right ahead and sing however you want to. But this week he’s showing ominous signs that he’s buying into his own bullshit, and yet no one’s volunteered (yet) to slap him mightily across the face and snap him out of it.

First of all, the man wants a recount of the New Hampshire vote. Not Obama and not Edwards, who are, after all, the only people with anything meaningful to be gained if it somehow turned out that the NH vote had left a bag of hanging chads behind in some cold, snowed-in town hall somewhere. Not even Bill Richardson, who might’ve been a viable candidate in a year that three of the most charismatic people in the party didn’t decide to run as well. No, Kucinich wants a recount, bless his ridiculous Mickey-Mouse-looking little heart. He Has Suspicions of Foul Play. As if any one of the top three or four would’ve actually benefited by stealing a hypothetical bag of Kucinich votes, when in reality you could add his entire total to anyone else’s and not make 1 per cent’s difference. (I will say this for the man, at least he put up his own money for this recount rubbish, although it seems more entertaining just to set $27K in cash on fire in an oil can somewhere in a cold city.)

That was enough, wasn’t it? You’d think so. And then we find out he’s suing MSNBC for not giving him a seat at Tuesday night’s Democratic debate.

Oh, for the sweet sufferin’ love of God, man.

Look, it’s his money and he can waste it any way he wants to. I can respect that. Back when I had a reasonably high-paying job, I bought so many red lipsticks I could now keep the Robert Palmer “Addicted to Love” band chicks in makeup until they’re all in the same nursing home for pouty models. I’m  not exactly afraid to throw money away. But it ticks me off that he’s dragging the Democratic Party, by association, into his personal celebration of hubris. To this, I say Look, dude, this isn’t just about you any more. Every time this story airs, you’ll be in some group shot, because cameramen are usually not fools, and you’ll have either Clinton or Edwards or Obama somewhere in the background with you, and you won’t just be making an ass of yourself, you’ll be embarrassing them by association.

Along with the rest of us, if you need it spelled out for you.

This week in politics has been irritating enough, frankly. First there was the non-story of Bill Clinton and the term “fairy tale,” which fooled exactly no one into thinking he was belittling Obama’s candidacy, and then there was the non-story of Hillary allegedly giving Lyndon Johnson credit for Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s work, which fooled even more no ones than Bill had. What a crock of crap. The notion that the Clintons have anything to be ashamed of when it comes to the politics of race is like saying George W. Bush should be more careful how he treats millionaires. Just as ridiculous is the idea that Obama’s campaign stirred up this cauldron of swill. If there’s anyone out there who doesn’t see Karl Rove behind this, put your glasses on and look again, please, because the only way any Republican is going to beat whoever’s the eventual Democratic candidate in the fall is if they create enough infighting between the front runners. If somebody’s campaign had anything to do with this, I’ll bet you all a silk pajama it’s Mitt Romney’s, or Fred Thompson’s, or someone else’s who drops God’s name like it’s going to get them past some kind of imaginary evangelical bouncer.

And then on top of this, Dennis Kucinich and His All-Ego Band decide they want to be treated like a front-runner. Well, guess what? Maybe I do, too. It’s probably not too late, in fact, to launch Tigereye for President and tour the campuses of Clemson, LSU, Auburn, Grambling, Memphis, and Trinity, looking for Tiger votes. If I did, starting now, I bet I’d do better than Dennis Kucinich. I’ve just got that kind of winning personality. Not to mention better hair.

So look, little man, you’ve had as many chances as anyone else to prove yourself a viable candidate, and to no one’s surprise but your own, it’s just not working out for you. That’s just the way it happens, and you’re not even close to being the first it’s happened to, although you’re moving rapidly up the charts in the race to see who lacks the most dignity while losing. Suck it up, Kucinich, and put your $27 grand back in your pocket, or better yet, try to save some face and donate it to charity, but leave New Hampshire and MSNBC out of your little play for air time. There’s more at stake here than just your future. The rest of us want a little happiness, too, and we’ll take it starting in November, if you’ll just leave things well enough alone.

So, I Met My Candidate Yesterday…

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , on January 10, 2008 by tigereye

This was totally unplanned. I had to go to Clemson anyway, to get my hair dyed before I go job-hunting in earnest, because someone with an inch and a half of brown roots grown out in their hair just doesn’t look like someone you’d want to hire. It looks like they’ve given up on life and are ready for the poorhouse, which is how I feel sometimes, but not necessarily how I want to look.

So I’m munching some cereal for breakfast with “The Today Show” on in the background, and the local update comes on and gives us the political visit news of the day. Mike Huckabee’s in Greenville, big fat hairy deal, and John Edwards is in Clemson…

Huh?

Yep, in Clemson. A scant two hours before my hair appointment. Which triggers my brain to say, If you’re going there anyway, get a move on, fool. You haven’t been to a political rally since 1992, when you and your friends got beaten up by a bunch of Republican assholes. Yes, this is how my brain really talks to me.

So I shower and put on makeup and show up in Clemson half an hour before the rally. There were about 30 people already gathered, including a group of senior citizens seated in the chairs in front of the stage, which I thought was a nice touch — college students can sit on the steps, but no one over 60 should be expected to do it. I stood beside the brick ramp leading up to the little staging area, thinking There should be a better crowd than this — the guy grew up 10 minutes from here, for God’s sake. Little did I know.

Whoever put together Edwards’s music did a good job picking the songs. I’m always very conscious of this, because badly selected music really puts me off. (Some dolt at my college’s football games likes to play AC/DC’s “Hell’s Bells” during the pregame warmups, and at every game I wonder how hard it would be to break into his booth, knock him out, and put on one of my homemade CDs much more suited to a game. But I digress.) This person got it right, though: not only did he have “Fortunate Son” and a few other CCR anthems, and not only did he feature that ubiquitous Mellencamp song “This is Our Country,” but he had Bob Marley, Bruce Springsteen’s “The Rising,” Robert Randolph’s “Ain’t Nothin’ Wrong With That,” a Dr. John song I’ve heard before but couldn’t identify… Someone in the Edwards campaign needs to be congratulated. I couldn’t have put together a better playlist myself. OK, I probably could, but this person would still be a close second.

Within half an hour, the crowd of 30 had swelled to about 150, and was crawling with TV and print reporters, photographers, campaign personnel, College Democrats who made me all nostalgic, and a few people I recognized from working with the local Democratic Party all those years ago. Everyone was cheerful and, well, even brotherly, offering seats to older attendees, carrying John and Elizabeth Edwards’s books in case there was a chance for autographs, smiling at total strangers. Hell, even I smiled at total strangers, which is pretty much against everything I believe in. So sue me. The sun was out and it was in the 70s in January. Yesterday it didn’t quite suck so much to be in SC.

By the time the event was supposed to have started, about 300 people had gathered and were still streaming up the steps and across the field. The front of the crowd was encouraged to step forward, so I found myself in the front row, holding an Edwards sign, wishing I’d thought to look for my “John Edwards 2004” button before I left the house. The front row was now less than 10 feet from the platform. I noticed a Secret Service-looking man in the crowd who looked so much like Barack Obama he could be his Mini-Me; only their height differed. There was also a large guy, associated with either the campaign or one of the local Democratic parties, in (God help me, still stuck in the south) overalls with an Edwards t-shirt on under it. This is the guy the news cameras will stick to, I thought. Especially the ones from Fox.

The former Senator arrived about half an hour late — not bad for a politician, not bad at all — and by then there were 500 or more gathered around an area that could comfortably hold about a hundred. Immediately the professional photographers shoved through to stand in front of those of us in the front row, which prompted me and a few others to crowd them uncomfortably: sure, it’s their job, but it’s MY candidate, so at least excuse yourselves, people. Edwards didn’t look at all like someone who’d been up late the night before, sweating about the returns in the land of the rich and the white, up north. And when I heard him speak, I remembered why I’d wanted to vote for him four years ago, and wanted to again, now.

He talked about growing up in a family that worked in the mills nearby, which, if you’re not from the south, is comparable only to working in the mines. Mill work was grueling and it was one of the jobs most concentrated upon by union busters, beloved by the extremely rich mill owners, both groups that make me sick with good old-fashioned class anger. He talked about having no health insurance and being unable to afford medicine or treatment. He talked about the salaries of insurance company CEOs, of oil barons, in comparison with what the rest of us could expect to make. He talked about America being better than this, which nearly choked me up, because I remember once thinking we were better than this, before the entire nation was sold out to the corrupt cronies of a failed and corrupt president.

I don’t know how John Edwards is going to do nationwide — and I still like all three Democratic frontrunners — but for about half an hour yesterday, I remembered what it had been like in 1992 to have a candidate running who wanted the same things I wanted, mainly for our country to be a better place for everyone, not just the sickeningly rich. I don’t know if I can get that kind of optimism back on a full-time basis, but it was nice to feel it again even for a few minutes yesterday, a nostalgia helped out by my presence on my old college campus. Who knows? — If I’d looked down, maybe I would’ve seen my old size 2 self for a few seconds, but that’s neither here nor there.

When it was over I joined the crush of people in line to shake Edwards’s hand, which left me thinking That’s two candidates I’ve shaken hands with now — possibly one of them will be President by the end of the year. All I have to do is meet Barack Obama and I’ll just about have the trifecta.

Then I walked downtown and got my hair dyed.

Undecided…

Posted in Slices of Life (add $1 for ice cream) with tags , , , , , , , , , , on January 3, 2008 by tigereye

I really need to get on this, because I only have 3 weeks left.

I’ve never had any difficulty choosing a candidate before, so this year has really backed me into an uncomfortable corner. Either there’s just been one guy available, like Mondale (and while I was too young to vote, believe me, I was a nerdy kid: I was Involved, whether I could vote or not), or my guy got pushed aside early on, like Gore in ’88, or I first saw Bill Clinton and fell head over heels in love with him as a candidate. There have never been so many decent possibilities that I’ve had trouble coming up with a favorite.

Until now.

The problem is, I develop relationships with people I’ve never met, and politicians are no different from, say, Anne Lamott or Peyton Manning or Bruce Springsteen. They live inside my head now, so I’ve had to make space and get comfortable with them. Like Hillary Clinton, for example: I think she’s great. (She’s also one of the few people living inside my head whom I’ve met.) I thought she was a marvelous First Lady and she was easily the first candidate I liked and wanted to work for.

And then came Barack Obama, the coolest man in politics. His 2004 DNC speech knocked me over. I felt like Bobby Kennedy had come back to this world. Here was an eloquent, thoughtful, brilliant and charming guy, and before long I made a still-sort-of-anguished decision to switch over to him as Choice #1.

So I’ve been with Obama since he announced he was running, which was, what, LAST January or February? By now it seems like a hundred years ago. I still feel guilty when I see Hillary Clinton. I still think she’s terrific, but now if I were her and I sat down beside her in the cafeteria, I’d get up and move, silent and dignified.

And then…

I had sort of written John Edwards off, although in 2004 he was The Man. Living next door to his home state, I’d first seen him in his commercials, and I liked his positivity, which is something no reasonable person expects me to like. I thought Kerry was sharp to pick him up: he was better spoken, more personable, thought fast on his feet…. And then they lost. Probably with some help from Diebold. Not that I’m bitter.

See, Edwards has recently…well…won me back.

(Barack, I’m sorry! I really am! Damn it, now he’s going to sit with Hillary. And they’re going to talk about me. I just know it.)

Here’s the thing. I am, unfortunately, no stranger to a grudge, and I loathe the insurance industry and the oil barons and the Wall Street/Merrill Lynch/Enron rich with the same passion I use to cheer on my football team, just reversed. I have no insurance. It sucks worse than any other situation I’ve ever found myself in. It’s not like I take a dozen medications for fun, but I can’t afford them in the doses that work best anymore. And I resent the holy bleeding hell out of every single person who’s ever helped dig this country into the elitist hole we’re in over insurance.

John Edwards grew up fifteen minutes from where I grew up, and his parents had the same kind of jobs my family did, until the mills closed and went to China and the utterly loaded bastards than own them could write the move off on their taxes. Edwards started out poor. That means a lot to me.

And now he seems to have discovered he has a couple of the same chips on his shoulder that I do. I think they were eroded down to pebbles when he discovered them again, but that’s OK: I can appreciate anyone with class anger, too. I’ve had it all my life. It’s not a healthy thing to carry about, but it does help you stay focused.

So I’m on Door, or Candidate, #3, which is totally unheard of for me.

I hope the folks in Iowa get it right, because I’m having a little trouble right now.