2-2-2006 Hold the pickles

“Hindsight alone is not wisdom, and second-guessing is not a strategy.”--Dubya from the State of the Union Address

This one got me to spinning in place.

And I liked it.

From WNEP.com:

New Voting Machines for Luzerne County

if (document.layers) {document.write(' By Jon Meyer

Fear of losing $3 million in federal cash forced Luzerne County leaders to make a decision about new voting machines Tuesday. They hoped for more time but they made a choice and voters will see a big change at the polls.

After 75 years of use, voters in Luzerne County knew the old lever voting machines well. The county commissioners hoped to use them one more time, but that's not going to happen.

"We must make a decision and make it now because we face a significant state or federal penalty if we don't," said Commissioner Greg Skrepenak.

To avoid losing money to pay for new machines, the commissioners reviewed several electronic voting systems, then made their choice.

"Whether you're older or young and you don't like anything different than you're used to you're going to be confused or upset. If you have an open mind and you see what this provides," Commissioner Todd Vonderheid said, adding voters will see how easy the machines are to use.

Director of Elections Leonard Piazza explained how the new system works.

Race by race pops up on a screen. The voter makes a choice, touches the screen and moves on to the next race. In the end the computer reviews all selections before the voter hits vote to finish.

"It is a fairly user-friendly system. If you can order a sub at Sheetz, you'll be able to vote on this system," Piazza said.

There will be a campaign to show voters how the machines work. Piazza said most importantly: "I think there's a lot less room for error. These will be the most accurate results we have in this county probably since we began using the lever machines," Piazza added.

That's the reason the federal government demanded out with the old and in with the new.


"It is a fairly user-friendly system. If you can order a sub at Sheetz, you'll be able to vote on this system," Piazza said.

Houston, we have a problem.

From a personal standpoint, I’d just assume eat my PDA before putting myself through that annoying electronic dog-and-pony show again at any Sheetz. Tried it once--didn’t like it. All I wanted was some freakin’ tuna and two slices of American cheese on a six-inch bun and I had to jump through hoops of real high-tech burning fire to get the damn thing. And if that’s not convoluted enough, when I finally got it, it sucked. Sorry, but I like at least one part tuna mixed in with my ten parts mayonnaise. I just knew I should have cruised on back to good ole’ Ashley and hit the local hoagie barn instead of giving the national Got-it-All haunt a try. At the local hoagie barn, not only do you get to interact with human beings, they whip up some kick-ass hoagies and deliver them with a smile.

No, I had to give in to that inherent curiously that drives most of us to spend our money in some over-rated category killer of a place, so that some bloated CEO in some sparkling crystal palace over the rainbow can afford himself a new Leer jet. And why in hell would I want to have to make like a computer programmer just to grab a hoagie on my way back to the shop? Do they conduct hoagie seminars on the third Tuesday of each month for those of us that spent too many weekdays playing hooky when we could have been in class learning the ‘portant stuff? Sorry, Mr. Sheetz, but I got no time nor money for a one-semester course at LCCC all for the purposes of ordering my condiments just right. That is, of course, unless Hoagie 101 might qualify me for PHEAA grant dollars. Nah, needing to utilize a ‘back” button and a “save” button to order a freaking hoagie makes about as much sense as needing Microsoft Money to pay your bills. No sense complicating things when simplicity works just fine every time it’s tried.

I walk into the local hoagie barn and the friendly hoagie lady sez Half’a number 9? A simple “Yup” is all that is required of me. No ‘puters. No courses. No national chain too completely cheap to pay some young single mother a “whopping“ $6.50 an hour to take the hoagie orders all day long. No “back” buttons. No one beep for wheat and two beeps for rye. No three beeps for pickles and four beeps for fries. Just give me some friendly service and I’ll gladly pay a little bit more for it.

End hoagie rant.

Anyway, sounds to me like our voter services guru supports the national Got-it-All haunt over the local hoagie barn. Oh, and he plays games with absentee ballots that arrive too early. Shame on him.

"It is a fairly user-friendly system. If you can order a sub at Sheetz, you'll be able to vote on this system," Piazza said.

Well, sounds to me like we just disenfranchised fifty percent of this county’s population.

The population of this county is what we’d call “gray-haired,” which is not to say that all senior citizens are computer illiterate. Many are not. Still, very many are completely computer illiterate. And they are perfectly fine with their self-imposed high-tech illiteracy. Some got no need for no newfangled internet. Some got no money for such a foolish thing. Still others have completely irrational fears whereas all of this gizmo-related tomfoolery is concerned.

I don’t sit in an office pretending to be awake for a living. Rather, I’m out there every day, and more often than not the customers I deal with are seniors. And if I had to venture a guess, I’d say approximately 30-40 percent of the senior citizens I encounter are capable of firing-off an e-mail, or playing online Slingo. Than again, what percentage of the senior citizens in this county are actually capable of ordering a slop-fest of a mayonnaise hoagie at the local Sheetz? Care to take a guess?

I’m not suggesting that the seniors won’t flock to the polls and openly embrace our new slot machine look-alikes, but I do wonder about all of that? I’m sure we could Google up a slew of reports that prove voter turnout is not suppressed when technology is introduced to the local polling precincts, that is, unless some frustrated Gore supporters compiled the agenda-driven reports. But I do believe there are those seniors that will shy away from attending Voting 101 in a very public place.

Come to think of it, somebody forgot to tell the senior citizens in this county that we have a two-party system in place. They don’t need no high-tech gizmos to vote the straight party ticket, do they? Maybe they should be able to phone it in.

And I guess we shouldn’t be focusing solely on senior citizens while speculating about how illiteracy might play into any aspect of our voting habits and whatnot. All too often, our younger folks seem incapable of rolling a roll of quarters without a picture-laden instruction booklet to walk them through it You know it. You‘ve seen those blank stares the teenaged cashiers make when you slap down a 40 cent pack of Juicy Fruit gum and then hand them a dollar. These people think a pedestrian bass beat and somebody vibrating words forth passes as innovative music. If you asked most of our younger folks to point out North Korea on a map, they’d probably be scouring over every inch of Northern Cuba, er, Florida looking for it. Do we honestly believe the majority of these folks are capable of mastering the condiment screen at Sheetz? Maybe they should skip the election and stick to the Chia Pet thing for now.

Now, not all young people are dumb like moss on a stump. Not all of them spent their formative years boozing’ down there in the strippens a ways. Some of them went and got themselves all educated like. They still couldn’t point out North Korea on a map to save their parent’s lives, but they do know how to operate a Gameboy. And for the purposes of voting, I guess that helps. Then again, iffin’ they went and got a college education, that means they’ve been hornswoggled by some aging counterculture professor and will vote against folks rather than voting for folks. They become nihilists before they even reach the legal drinking age. Hopefully those new high-tech voting machines will scare some of them off since the Democrats taught them not only to distrust lever machines, but to distrust electronic machines as well. You see, the current myth goes like this: No matter what you do, those lying, cheating Republican bastards are going to steal the elections. If that were actually true, then why vote at all?

I hope plenty of the supposedly smarter young folks stay home, too. They need some time to get their sh*t together and grow past the leftist dogma that was programmed into them.

And what of the frustrated white folks like my sister. She votes for whomever it is that is promising the most handouts paid for by my overtime earnings? Free health care? She’s a Democrat. Free health care? She’s voting Republican. Free pot? She’s suddenly a Green Party stalwart. Freebies of any serious sort? She’s changing her party affiliation. Do we really want her to vote? I have no idea if she can operate the condiment screen at the local Sheetz, but I hope the thought of it scares the hell out of her. The Entitlement Now! voters are gonna make it so that none of us will be able to afford a sloppy mayonnaise hoagie unless Hillary’s monkeys fly her all the way to Washington and she supplies them for us. Want a hoagie? It takes a commune.

Maybe the touch-screen machines will scare off some Democrats, too. The thing is, the Democratic Party is less of a party with a coherent message than it is a loose coalition of single-issue groups, far-left groups, and fringe groups hoping to impose their degeneracy upon the rest of us. None of those individual groups are concerned about what’s best for America as much as they are what’s best for their particular cause celeb. And I fail to see how the designated leader of such a loose and varied coalition can forge the country ahead while being so distracted by so many disparate and vocal splinter groups. Maybe the Democrats shouldn’t be allowed to vote at all?

The Republicans might not be up to The Sheetz Challenge. And many might see that as a good thing. They got their fair share of folks concerned more with their special interests than the good of the country. They have to kowtow to the bible thumpers, which wouldn’t necessarily be a bad thing if they could stick with the Ten Commandments message and quit with the calls for assassinating foreign heads of state. And it’d be really nifty if they could quit threatening us with eternal damnation for doing what nature demands that we do--fornicate. I mean, if Sharon Stone got a little too drunk, naked and started with the Yoga routine right then and there, what would Jesus do? We already know what Reverend Jim Baker would do. Besides, why can’t we play some naked Twister with the frisky neighbor when men of the cloth are doing it behind closed doors? Stick with the Golden Rule type stuff and leave our peckers alone.

While I’m not one to go off half-cocked about evil Big Business, it would be nice if some of the Republicans could detach themselves from the corporate teats. I don’t care who might need some cheap, illegal labor from south of the Rio Grande when the corporate CEOs are bathing in champagne and lavishing themselves with excesses unknown to any of the Roman Caesars. When 40,000 people get downsized out of a job to help bolster the company’s sagging stock price, that’s gross and unfair when you learn what the board of that company might be earning. When profits matter, but people’s earnings do not--what does the future of our economy have in store for us? How aggressive are the expansion plans of a company like Sheetz when that growing outfit is too cheap to pay somebody to take a hoagie order? And who benefits from such things? Certainly not anyone not heavily invested in the stock market.

The Republicans claim to be the party of smaller government, but somewhere along the way they got to spending like a bunch of drunken socialist Democrats. They spend too much, they want to police my erogenous zones and they can’t wait to eliminate my job. Do you think many of them will be scared off by the condiment test? Maybe they should be encouraged not to vote.

My point? I don’t even know if I have one other than to suggest that very few of us probably deserve to be trusted with a vote. I thought we were supposed to be voting for the good of our communities, or for the good of our country. But it seems like a not so funny thing happened on the way to democracy once we learned how to manipulate the hell out of the system. These days, we’ve been polarized and split into opposite camps always accusing each other of being incapable of reaching anything closely resembling a bi-partisan consensus. But I could deal with that sans all of the hateful invective.

I like to bust nuts. Sure, I enjoy the tit-for-tat jousting and the political back-and-forth as much the next guy, but when one party starts calling for political crucifixions, I think the time has arrived when we all need to take a step back and reexamine just what has become of what used to be a severely heated, but still somewhat respectful debate.

We recently had us a president that twice lied under oath and got caught. He was impeached, but remained in office. As far as I’m concerned, he should have been removed from office for such a thing. But, he was put in that position after the Republicans went and got themselves a special prosecutor and went mining for a scandal--any scandal. So here we are a few years later and the Democrats are looking for a bit of payback. At the first scant hint of impropriety, it’s special prosecutors and mining for scandals. Sorry, but Joe Wilson and his on-again, off-again super “spy” of a wife do not impress me as being anything other than partisan hacks. Neither does Paula Jones for that matter.

I truly do not care what the Democrats dream up as far as having Bush crucified is concerned. But I have gotten to wondering when we can get back to worrying about what’s good for the future of the country rather than what’s good for the future of the party. Is it healthy to remain so divided while terrorists are rattling the nuclear sabers we’re not even sure that they have? Is it in our best interests to be talking about impeaching our president, while the feds are pumping millions of dollars into our area just in case New York City gets nuked? We need a back-up Wall Street, but we can’t even agree on how best to resuscitate our flailing social security program? Buying votes comes first, and the future of our country comes second?

You sure got me by the gonads. All I know is, I don’t like where we’re headed and I think very few of us should be trusted with the glorified condiment screens at this point.

Sheetz? I got no need for Sheetz, and I got no need for any ‘pensive condiment screens come election time. So long as we all remain stupid, the mechanisms by which we display our stupidity matter not.

But what do I know? I’m sitting here in my boxer shorts with the front curtains open.

Hold the pickles.

I gotta go. I have not abused my eardrums since this past weekend and it’s time to snag the headphones and escape for a while.


No one likes us
I don't know why.
We may not be perfect
But heaven knows we try.
But all around even our old friends put us down.
Let's drop the big one and see what happens.

We give them money
But are they grateful?
No they're spiteful
And they're hateful.
They don't respect us so let's surprise them;
We'll drop the big one and pulverize them.

Now Asia's crowded
And Europe's too old.
Africa's far too hot,
And Canada's too cold.
And South America stole our name.
Let's drop the big one; there'll be no one left to blame us.

We'll save Australia;
Don't wanna hurt no kangaroo.
We'll build an all-American amusement park there;
They've got surfing, too.

Well, boom goes London,
And boom Paris.
More room for you
And more room for me.
And every city the whole world round
Will just be another American town.

We'll set everybody free;
You'll have Japanese kimonos, baby,
There'll be Italian shoes for me.
They all hate us anyhow,
So let's drop the big one now.
Let's drop the big one now.

(Randy Newman--Political Science)

Gage & Larry--June ‘05