Wednesday, November 24, 2010

All About Me

I was recently asked to write a short bio of myself (I'll tell you why in the next post).  Like many people in this situation, I find it hard to strike the right balance between modesty and self-promotion (or, to put it another way, between the hard truth and my own inflated self-image).  So I figured I'd look at myself through the eyes of some of the people who know me well, and try to tell my story from their point of view.

For example, here is how I imagine my beautiful, talented, and devoted wife would describe me:  Scott is a moderately funny guy who is going to make me a widow if he doesn't lay off the french fries. He is a workaholic, except when it comes to cleaning a dish or folding a towel, at which point he is suddenly less productive than a government bureaucrat on medical leave. He is very talented in a number of areas, none of which generate any income whatsoever.

My karate instructor: Scott bruises easily. He enjoys his infrequent workouts, as long as we all agree not to knock him down, twist his arm, or make him bend at the knees. He is not even close to being the oldest student in the dojo, but he is definitely the most likely to be injured. Scott would prefer to talk his opponent out of hitting him, which can be a useful technique on the street but is kind of distracting in sparring class.

One of the members of my writing critique group: I don't know why you're asking me to write this. The guy likes nothing more than talking about himself... except for pointing out the flaws in everybody else's writing—that he seems to really enjoy.

My college roommate: I've never seen anybody go through more Doritos after just two bong hits. No, seriously.

My psychologist (after receiving my signed stack of releases and waivers, of course): Scott has a beautiful wife who loves him; great kids who are growing to be exceptional adults; a gorgeous house and a great job. He should stop complaining so much.

My rabbi: Scott? Ver vais—I never see him, even on the High Holidays. And with his education—such a waste.

The lovely woman who works behind the counter at Bruegger's: Mr. Scott is very nice man. He always orders the same thing: bagel with egg and cheese, no bacon. He even makes me get him an egg from the refrigerator instead of one that is in the tray where we put sometimes meat. I think he is a Muslim.

So, there you have it: the complete picture. I am a whiny, hypercritical, overeating, underachieving, non-observant Jewish Muslim with very limited self-defense skills.

Wow, that wasn't so hard after all.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Modest Proposal

Most California voters are complete idiots.

That's right.  I've thought long and hard about this, examined the data, considered it from every angle, and determined that the majority of adult citizens in our state are of extremely questionable intellect.

Mind you, this evaluation has nothing to do with the actual results of the balloting. Sure, California elected a Democrat to every (or almost every) state-wide office, while at the same time defeating a number of ballot initiatives any sane Democrat would have supported. And no, that type of confusion does not speak well for the sophistication of our electorate.

But, while the outcome of the election certainly does not paint a flattering picture of the voting public, I am focused here instead on the process itself.  Let's start with the obvious:  as far as I can tell, close to 100% of Californians, at one time or another, bitch and moan about the state of the state.  Taxes are too high, the beaches too dirty, the schools too crowded.  And yet, even in an election as hotly contested—and broadly advertised—as this one, only a bit over half of our neighbors cast a ballot.  I expect this problem to resolve itself as these people starve to death, one by one, while waiting for somebody to bring them something to eat.  From the kitchen.  In their own house.

Shifting our focus to those who did put forth the effort required to make a few marks on a piece of paper, the picture is no more impressive.  Roughly half of these folks actually show up at a polling place to vote.  Let me say that again: given the option of receiving a ballot in the mail weeks before election day, filling it out at one's leisure, and dropping it in a mailbox, about half of Californians have decided that it would be more fun to take time off from work, drive to a nearby elementary school, wait in line, and use a keyboard or hole punch device that has been handled by about 100 other people in the past hour.

My friends, I don't wait in line for so much as a burrito. And who among you, dear readers, would even consider showing up at the DMV without an appointment? You read my blog; surely that suggests that you are far too clever for that sort of behavior.

Oregon, a state whose primary purpose heretofore was to increase the flight time from Orange County to Seattle, has gone to all-mail balloting (not to be confused with "all-male" balloting, a term used to describe either pre-19th Amendment America, or the modern Republican constituency). The result? Voter turnout this week in Oregon exceeded 71%.

Nonetheless, as a staunch (yet humble) defender of individual liberty, I take offense at Oregon's inflexible insistence on intelligent behavior.  After all, if we force everybody to act sensibly, how will we weed out the senseless?

Instead, for our next election, I propose that we set some secret ground rules in advance. First, if you don't vote, you lose your right to vote altogether. Sorry: you had your chance. Oh, and also, we take away your children: after all, the children are our future, and we simply can't entrust our future to people like you.

If you do vote, but you show up at a polling place to do so, here's what happens: we let you wait in line, find your name on the giant hardcopy list, get your ballot, and enter the little booth. When you return, ballot in hand and self-satisfied smile on your face, we graciously accept your ballot and then burn it in front of you. As you watch, horrified, while the flames engulf your precious envelope, we thank you for voting, hand you your "I Voted" sticker, and shoo you away.  Then we take your kids.

I estimate that this policy alone will increase the average IQ of the electorate (those whose votes weren't incinerated, that is) by 20-30%.  It may be hard finding vote-by-mail foster parents for all the kids we saved, but it will have been worth it.