Wasting Votes on Democrats and Republicans

October 30, 2010

I voted early last week and I had to wait in line for 20 minutes on a regular weekday afternoon. The polling clerks—all volunteers, God blessem—said it’s been that way from the start. Thousands of voters, energized, wanting to share in our Republican form of government. (Yes, it’s Republican, not a Democratic format.)

Based on the age and somewhat grim comments of people in line, I don’t think there were a lot of people voting Democratic, but I could be wrong. It was pretty interesting to see how determined people were to vote—even though none of us got to dip our fingers in dye when we were finished.

The worst part of the experience was the voting itself. Let’s see, do I want to vote for the greedy pederast who guillotines puppies for sport or the slimy thief who has stolen $billions to support his heroin habit? Should I vote for the candidate who plans to launch a nuclear war against Massachusetts—after alerting Scott Brown to flee—or the one who wants us to apply for statehood in Yemen?

I truly cannot tell you what anyone stands for in these races. Frankly, I’m not sure I know what they stand for, or against, because it’s all personal attacks and sound bites.

You always sound really, really old and codgery when you start a sentence with “I remember a time…” but I remember a time….when candidates talked about themselves and their views in their campaign ads—hey, a shout-out to Dan Rutherford, who was actually foolish enough to talk about HIS ideas in one ad, proving himself unfit to be a modern politician.

Today, I can always tell who ISN’T approving the message; it’s whoever has his name mentioned the most.

Here’s the real tragedy of Tuesday, November 2, 2010. In every district, in every race, somebody will be elected. And that somebody is going to think the victory is an endorsement of all the views the candidate didn’t really spell out or, in some cases, think about, during the campaign. In almost all cases, they will be wrong.

Here’s the reality, Mr. and Mrs. Winner-to-Be. Nobody is voting for you. Almost everyone is voting against your opponent, just like you’ve asked them to do. You didn’t win the election. You came in third in the Most-Hated Contest, right behind your opponent and his best friend, Hitler.

In a way, of course, you won. You made the other person more disliked and mistrusted than you are. Only in politics does this count as a plus on your resume.

We have real problems in this country, including an aging infrastructure, outdated regulatory systems and a set of promises—mostly to the elderly, not to minorities—that we cannot keep without huge increases in taxes. These problems were small, once, but leaders of both parties, over the course of several decades, ignored the issues, knowing they could count on voters to be undemanding in the extreme. After Tuesday, the representatives of both parties will continue to do the same, because each will confuse his or her election as some kind of endorsement by THE PEOPLE.

The only way to make a statement this election is to vote for third-party candidates. Voting for Tea Partiers won’t do it, because they are all running under the Republican Party banner, instead of creating their own real party.

Vote for the Tea Partiers and it just looks like Republicans versus Democrats. Vote for Libertarians and Greens, though, and you make a clear statement that you’re sick of both of the major parties and their mishandling of their responsibility.

Yes, it’s entirely possible that a few third-party people would win or, at least, force some runoffs here and there. If so, great news. If a few Tea Partiers win seats in the House, it’s not a wake-up call. If a couple of Green Party congressmen take their oaths in a few months, even the most committed party loyalists will have to think about their job performance.

No. It’s not a wasted vote. It’s a principled statement that’s the best you can do until the ballot includes a box for none of the above.

And let’s face it. You don’t like most of the people on the ballot. Damaged goods, each and every one. Even without all the smear tactics and robocalls and hyperbolic manipulation of sound bites, you wouldn’t let most of these people babysit your children. So if you vote third party, you won’t be damaging the country. In fact, you’ll be making a very powerful statement to your own political party and to the entire political establishment.

So I went to vote last week and I voted for more third-party candidates than I’d ever thought about in my life. Next time, I hope that won’t be the Hobson’s Choice that greets me at the polls.

Thank you all. And God Bless America.

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When the Moon is in the Seventh Month….

September 7, 2010

I’m liking the lunar calendar this week.

Rosh Hashanah starts on Wednesday night, which combines with Labor Day to make this a two-day workweek for me. Oddly, that’s not the reason I’m a big fan of the lunar calendar this year.

The calendar that sets the course of Jewish life varies not with the sun but the inconstant moon. Jewish timetables include just one solar calendar date (December 4/5 is when we start praying for rain.) and, for the life of me, I can’t recall why or how a Gregorian/Julian date slipped in there. Otherwise, it must be moonglow.

The Jewish calendar—Chinese, Muslims and others use a lunar calendar, but in different ways—is a model of messiness. The sun rules the seasons, so the ancients had to figure out ways to keep fall holidays like Sukkoth from sliding into spring, and vice versa for Passover. And so, while the solar calendar has a one-day adjustment every four years, the Jewish calendar adds a leap MONTH seven times in every nineteen years. By comparison, the Muslim calendar has no leap month, so Ramadan can be in any season as the years progress.

And did I mention that the Jewish New Year begins, not on the first day of the year, but on the first day of the seventh month? Oy.

It’s the variation of the calendar that has me pumped. Rosh Hashanah is very early this year, about as early as it ever comes when measured by the solar clock that guides most of our lives. Over the coming years, the holiday will slide back and forth, sometimes beginning in early October and other times during the week before Labor Day.

Of course, the more pious Jews will tell me Rosh Hashanah isn’t early at all. I’m just reading the wrong calendar. But, hey, let them get their own blog. This is mine.

And on my blog, the timing of Jewish Holidays is an occasional reminder that our lives are ruled by more than one calendar, more than one clock. There’s just one clock we look at each day, the increasingly analog and bloodless LED screens that flash their precision as a mocking display of exactitude.

It’s 3:47, not a quarter to four, so don’t betray your human fallibility by rounding off the numbers. Learn to speak my binary language. 3..4…7. Now 3…4…8. Now 3…4…9. Puny mortal.

We don’t exactly worship the clock, but we do pay so much attention to the standard clock and the standard (solar) calendar that we can forget the arbitrary nature of our temporal taskmaster. Chronological noon is almost never the same as solar noon, the new year occurs neither on a solstice nor an equinox and the importance of our agendas is only as large as we make it.

The fault lies not in the sun, but in ourselves, that we are slaves to Lord Chronos.

So it’s nice when another Timekeeper comes up, taps us on the shoulder and reminds us to think about the other clocks and calendars and measurements of time.

Hey, buddy, it’s that time of day when the kids are up and the homework’s done and they’re ready to wrestle in the family room. Look, the rain just ended and you only have a few minutes to catch a whiff of the cool air. Wow, the kids are actually getting along and having a conversation that’s not about boogers. You better stop and watch this; you might never see it again.

Tempus fugit. Another year begins.

Urgent, but totally unimportant

August 14, 2010

I’m leaving for several days on a trip–Attention, burglars, there is an alarm system and toxic waste in the house–and I am in a panic about my online life.

I actually checked out my various blog/networking sites, took a last look at my ever-so-important FaceBook friends and made sure there were no incredible new job offers on LinkedIn before I leave. After all, who could ever leave home while FaceBook friends were waiting for a reply.

Thankfully, all is quiet on the home front, which is what all the cognoscenti call the World Wide Weboblogosphere. None of the news I missed while out of town last week was all that important and it will most likely turn ou…….

Wait a minute.

Every time I take a flight and bring aboard two months of reading that piled up and seemed terribly urgent, I read through about 8,000 pages and recognize that it wasn’t urgent at all. And every time I return from a trip and start going back to “older posts” and older and older, it’s the same thing. In fact, I cannot remember the last time, or any time, that I scrolled through a million social networking posts and found something I really truly needed to know.

Perhaps, just maybe, possibly, this is one of those things that seems to be terribly important, urgent, even life-changing, but ultimately isn’t. Maybe I can survive without checking in on FaceBook and LinkedIn and all the other social networks that define my Socialite existence.

Maybe it’s safe to take an old fashioned vacation, after all. Wish me luck. It’s been a long, long time.

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Chicken Butts are Forever

June 24, 2010

We’re sitting on the tarmac in St Louis. It was supposed to be Chicago, but one of those summer storms that sweeps across the Midwest sent us into a holding pattern and then we ran out of fuel and, well, American doesn’t fly ultralights, so we stopped at the nearest filling station.

I scored an upgrade to first class, sitting across from a dad and his daughter who were up front while mom and the other daughter were in back. I think the girl back in steerage with her mom was unaware of how cheated she was by all of this; she probably doesn’t even resent her sister for this abuse. Yet.

But the plane is on the ground now, so the second daughter comes up for a visit with her sister and it took me back in time, because they sounded just like my girls.

Do you know what?

Chicken butt.

Stop saying that.

It’s funny.

No it’s not. I don’t want you to do that anymore.


You know what?

Chicken butt.

I told you ‘no.’

I know but it’s in my head.

How did chicken butt survive 20 years? Like Dracula or I Love Lucy reruns, it never sleeps, never disappears. Like that joke that goes, “So the policeman said, ‘Are you looking for trouble,” and Shut Up said. ‘How did you know?'”

Do these things go dormant for 37 years like the swine flu, only to rise up again with a vengeance to irritate moms and dads everywhere? Or maybe it’s the aunt who has all those cats in her house, the one who thinks she’s still hip and wants the kids to know she knows all the humor that kids know. Only the kids didn’t know it until she re-infected them.

Or maybe there’s some kind of passing of the torch within a secret society of children. Is the last kid to turn five instructed to turn to the newest four-year-old and pass on the humor of a thousand generations?

And it might be more than 1,000 generations. Biblical scholars report that Cain asked Abel, “Knowest ye whateth?” and Abel said, “Chicken butteth,” and it all went downhill from there.

Clearly, bad childhood humor has the survival skills of cockroaches and will outlive us all. As the girls were jabbering about chicken butts, I noticed the six-month-old boy in the first row. His mom was holding him, but he was paying just a bit too much attention to the conversation two rows back.

(Originally posted at 5minutesforparenting.com)

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WGN TV Interview

June 8, 2010

Watch Allison Payne interview Michael Rosenbaum, author of Your Name Here: Guide to Life, on superstation WGN TV.


Hear Michael’s Interview on WGN Radio

June 2, 2010

Michael Rosenbaum appeared on Jim Laski’s show on superstation WGN Radio 720, Thursday evening, June 3, from 9-9:30 p.m. Topics included Your Name Here: Guide to Life, fatherhood, stuff grads should know and how much you can learn if you just shut up and pay attention.

Click HERE to listen to the interview.

Pies Are Square

May 22, 2010

We were digging into our 13th or 14th slice of pumpkin pie before we found one that actually tasted like pumpkin. Jill was on slice number 18 or 19 before she found an apple pie that tasted like apple. Such are the tragedies of life for judges in the American Pie Championships. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it and, last month, we were among those somebodies.

Two words that always go well together are free and food, so what could be more fun than a weekend of sampling the best pie recipes from across the country? From apple to cherry to sweet potato and pumpkin, the buffet was open.

Between us, Jill and I tasted and rated more than 70 pies from promising (and not-so-promising) amateurs and well-established professionals over a weekend in Florida. Our fellow judges were food writers, bakers, pie equipment salesmen and plain old consumers like us. And, if we were paying any attention at all, we shared another journey into the every day is a model of life file. A few lessons from the world of pie:

Pies Are Square. There were very few hippies, yippies, bikers, artistes and other nonconforming types at the party. If you ever want to see Mainstream America, in a good way, check out the people whose passion is pie.

Keep it simple. A pumpkin pie should have pumpkin; an apple pie should have, um, what’s that fruit….apple. So many entrants came up with interesting concepts that went nowhere, simply because they made it so complicated that the recipe didn’t seem to fit in the category.

Life isn’t fair. A great baker in Arizona or Colorado is going to face new challenges in the humidity and altitude in Florida. If the competition was in Aspen, you’d take home all the awards, but it isn’t in Aspen, so you walk home empty handed.

Find the common ground. I got to be the table captain for one session, which gave me the chance to see the variety of taste preferences on our panel. Nobody doesn’t like Sara Lee, but lots of people don’t like much clove or ginger or brown sugar or eucalyptus or jalapenos in their pies. So how do you find a winner? The best is universal, pleasing everyone to some degree.

Everything becomes a job after a while. Even the role of honored judge gets to be a drudge by the time you’re analyzing the mouth feel of your 15th slice. Whatever you’re eating, nothing tastes as good, or bad, as the first bite. As in the rest of life, novelty is a treat, until it stops being novel.

The greatest gift is time. Spend a few hours in someone else’s world and you discover a whole new dimension to them. The friends who invited us to be pie judges are involved in the industry, but we see them at all kinds of activities that have nothing to do with pie. Taking a journey into their other world added a new dimension and spark to our appreciation of them.

All these great life lessons, and FREE FOOD!!! What could be better?

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