Moving Out of Iowa

So after over a year of political craziness, we’re now in the thick of the 2016 Presidential Primaries. Am I the only one who thinks that the way we do this is totally inane? It feels like the minute one election ends, we’re already on to talking about the next one. We’re subjected to months of speculation, ads, campaign nonsense, talking heads, the whole works. Plus, even with recent developments in the judicial system, corporate money reigns supreme in our electoral process, and it will be years (if ever) before we can excise it. This has led us to some less than enviable positions, the biggest one being that there is a real chance that a man who ran for little more than his own ego could be the candidate for one of the major parties. To say that our political process has become a three ring circus would be an understatement if I’ve ever heard one. There isn’t a whole lot we can do, but I have a few ideas about how to make this happen. Also, it should be noted that I’m not a Constitutional scholar, so who knows the legal validity of this idea, but I think you can make a case under Article II, Section 1 for all this.

My idea is super simple, and in two parts:

First, every state has their primary on the same goddamn day. Let’s say 6 weeks before Election Day. Every single last one. If you want to counteract the money, and limit who’s going to be serious about doing this, make them spread the wealth around. Mad because it means that NY, LA, and Chicago will become way more important than Iowa? That’s kind of the point. Democracy is about the people. Not the chosen few special white people in rural states. Sorry, folks, that’s the deal. Oh, and you can’t campaign at all until 6 weeks before this Primary Day. Announce you’re running, have a book or listening tour if you want, but you can’t make a stump speech, call someone, or knock on a door until that day. Suddenly, dumping all your money into Iowa or New Hampshire seems stupid, doesn’t it?

Secondly, Congress needs to set real standards on voting. OK, so states could have a real 10th Amendment freakout about this, but if you’re careful to word it that it’s just for Federal elections, it should get trumped. Part of this is giving teeth back to the FEC to enforce against gerrymandering, which we all know is a pipe dream, but this doesn’t happen without it. But also, it’s about making sure that voting machines are up to snuff, making their source code open source and on consumer level equipment (seriously, why could someone not cook up a hardened Raspberry Pi with some software to count votes? Plus, states won’t be stuck in that fucked up position when their election machine vendor goes under and they can’t get parts or service for their broken machines) that would be cheaper for governments to implement and more secure because you can put the best that the open source community has to offer into it. Oh, and voter verifiable paper trail, too, natch (optical scan ballots would be the best bet here).

Now, will this fix everything? No. But it’s a start. Let’s dream a little, shall we?

So Long, Farewell

There’s plenty that’s been said already about the events in Paris last week. I can’t add anything useful. I wanted to talk instead about the truly ugly aftermath that’s emerging from this. That is the political pandering against Syrian refugees, and the ways that it’s going to make a serious problem even worse.

There’s already the ever-present undercurrent of Islamophobia that’s existed since, well, ever if you really think about it. Then it got super exacerbated when it was found that the main planner behind the attacks in Paris used a fake Syrian passport to get into Europe as a refugee. And like that, we were off to the races, with the goal being for conservatives to see just how far down the rabbit hole they could go. Now there are 31 of 50 state governors who say that they will not allow Syrian refugees to settle in their states. This includes my home state of New Jersey, mostly because we have a Republican governor who still thinks he can be President one day. The menagerie of Republican Presidential nominees are spouting off plenty of nonsense. Politicians of all stripes just seem to be on a race to the bottom. Hell, I’ve seen more posts on Facebook about people having to delete other people or stop going on Facebook in the past week because of their terrible invective than ever (and it’s sad when someone you genuinely like on Facebook turns out to be a xenophobe, isn’t it?).

I wish I could ask how we’ve gotten so close to the bottom, but I think the reality is that we’ve been here for a very long time. This is 14 years of hatred that has just seethed and bubbled and grown, and now it’s exploding. We have exposed the worst of ourselves to the world, and everyone is watching.

And the thing that drives me fucking crazy is that, to some degree, isn’t this what ISIS and their ilk want? They are very successful at recruiting young people who feel disaffected in the Western world. The vast majority are kids who came up in a Western environment. Like the Boston bombers. Everyone remembers them as young kids who liked to lift and look good, until they were about something else. What better way to turn around and show these people how the Western world truly is against them, and bolster their ranks. Trust me, that’s powerful stuff.

In the end, I feel for the Syrians who really just want to get away from a world that’s bad all around. They have Assad on one side, ISIS on the other. No wonder they are fleeing Syria in droves. It’s too bad that they are soon going to feel like they have nowhere else to go in the world at all.

The Rising

Tribute In Lights

I wrote this three years ago for an earlier version of D6. I don’t think I could ever sum this up as eloquently as I did then. This is still one of the pieces of writing I’m most proud of.

I was sound asleep. I was a 20 year old college student on that Tuesday morning, still living at home. I didn’t have class until that afternoon. I didn’t work that day. So I was in bed like a normal 20 year old college kid. I remember being woken up because I heard my mother in the house. She was crying. To this day, I will never forget coming downstairs, asking her what was wrong, and the total feeling of disbelief that engulfed me when she told me what happened. I remember the surreal feeling that set in the rest of the day just watching TV as a rescue operation turned into a salvage operation turned into a smoldering, smoking wound in the heart of our city. After that Tuesday, I will always understand what people mean when they say they always remember exactly where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed or John F. Kennedy was shot.

I’d only been to the World Trade Center once, way back in 1997, with my grandparents and my uncle. I remember going on the roof and how you could see so far out to everywhere. I think I took a whole roll’s worth of pictures that day. I wish I knew where they are today. That view was utterly breathtaking.

There’s a point when you’re driving up Rt 1-9 northbound between Woodbridge and Rahway, just when you cross over the NJ Coast railroad tracks where, on a clear day, you could always see the twin towers standing tall over the NYC skyline. I always remember that from driving through there growing up with my family, and later with just myself. After the attacks, that view was… empty, devoid of its centerpiece. It sat like that for years. Tonight, as we were driving home over that very same stretch of road, we could see the annual tribute in lights shining into the night’s sky, right next to the gleaming phoenix of the new 1WTC tower, finally rising defiantly to reclaim the southern Manhattan sky.

Photo Credit: quintanomedia on Flickr with a CC by 2.0 license.