Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Knee Thing

When Mr. Kapernapunk first did his knee thing, it accomplished what I think he wanted. What I think he was seeking was to slap us in the face with our own white privilege and make a statement about his view of society. While such a viewpoint of society doesn’t quite match up to my perception of reality, I respect that he has a different viewpoint, and he can express that viewpoint however he feels is appropriate. I have that same freedom, as does virtually every physical object occupying space in the universe. 

There is a scientific principle that applies here. Specifically an old guy named Newton postulated that “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Basically that means that for every interaction there are a pair of forces, and the size of the force on the first object equals the size of the force on the second object when they interact. You hit a nail with a hammer it tries to go into a block of wood or your finger. You push a ball, it rolls away.

Obviously old man Newton knew nothing about football or a black guy with pigs on his socks doing inappropriate things while a band played an old song written by a white guy who probably walked by a slave market every day without a thought about the evilness of that institution. No, Newton was an apple lover who probably had his slaves pick apples or maybe knew someone who had slaves that picked apples. It’s safe to say that he knew nothing about football or kneeling. Mostly. He probably knew quite a lot about the physics involved in a football’s flight through the air or the force necessary to propel the football through a goalpost when kicked by a foot. He was knighted by the Queen in 1705. I’m sure he had to kneel for that, so I’d say he also had a passing familiarity with kneeling. A black guy with pigs on his socks? Not so much.

Regardless, it is my own conjecture that this scientific principle leads to the conclusion that actions, no matter how tiny or stupid, always have consequences. For my proof I point to the plethora of videos of cats caught doing stupid things on the internet. They almost always start with the cat doing something, then that something causing something else to happen, which is inevitably either disastrous, funny, cute, or all three.  So yes, Mr. Kapernapunk and the kneeling NFL have a lot to learn from cat videos and Newton.

I say all that to say that when it happened, I really could have cared less what happened to Mr. Kapernapunk when he did his kneeling thing. I thought that when he was effectively benched and blackballed that was a just outcome. He was just suffering the consequences of his bad judgment: the fact that he was a marginal quarterback may also have played into woes. I know from what I speak. I have watched marginal quarterbacks do their marginal thing for years while rooting for the Redskins. I strongly suspect that since the NFL has become a theater for the absurd, his little protest was most probably an attempt to draw attention away from his marginal capabilities and keep that sweet NFL money flowing into his pocket. I’m not sure how well that worked out for him.

The kicker here is what happened this year. Mr. Kapernapunk’s little stunt went mainstream. The thugs and punks who are now seem to make up the majority of the gentleman who play the game professionally decided that Mr. Kapernapunk protest made sense to them. They decided that they too needed to push back against what they perceived as injustice in the same manner. I respect that they have a viewpoint, and, as noted above, they certainly can take any action. It is the nature of the universe that things take action. It is also the nature of the universe that there are reactions.

For me as a veteran this action was perhaps one of the most offensive things they could have done. Allow me to quantify that. If they had all dropped trowel and collectively mooned the stadiums they play act in with ‘COPS SUCK’ painted on their derrieres in day glow colors it would have been less offensive. I understand they don’t get my way of thinking. Most of the time I don’t believe that most people get how I think. It does appear that a great many people who used to watch football and buy stuff the advertisers advertise on any given Sunday have feelings similar to me. It’s not a statement that just means ‘cops are unfair’ to us. It’s a statement that this country, this beacon of freedom to the world, is a crappy place and everything I personally have done to try to make it a great place to live in is an absurd endeavor. 

My reaction to this goes deeper than just the sting of a momentary slap in the face. They actually accomplished what they intended with me. I did some long thinking about the thing they were trying to say. I tried to understand because I really like watching football and I didn’t want to give it up just because I couldn’t see and agree with the way they protested. This is an admittedly selfish reason. So I pondered it, and the conclusion was a bit unexpected.

My conclusion was that not only did I disagree with their flawed premise, not only did I find their protest personally hurtful and demeaning, but for them to take such action, their ethos and egos were such that I literally have nothing in common with them. To wit, they threw me off their team. I no longer feel like I, by accident or geography or family experience, share a common goal or purpose with them. I have no motivation to watch what they do on the gridiron every Sunday. It would be like an American watching a cricket match: intellectually interesting but not as entertaining as catching up on Game of Thrones on Netfix. 

Thus, for me, and I think I lot of former fans, they have killed the idea of professional football for the masses. That really is a sad thing. Even the Europeans have their football where the masses identify with a team – say Manchester United or Chelsea to name a couple of British teams. I am not worldly enough to know more than that, but you get my gist. 

So now we are going to lose that, as least in professional football, which filled a unique niche. Let me break that down. For grouping masses of people together professional football is unique. What other venues are available to Americans for fandom? Well, first you start out with high school football. This is still a thing for a lot of small towns where the whole town turns out on crisp fall Friday nights to watch ‘their boys’ do battle with the guys from down the road. That works for small towns. For larger suburbs and cities, not so much. Busing to enforce an equality of education experience pretty much destroyed the high school team experience in the 80’s suburbs, or at least it did where I grew up. High schools in the cities and suburbs were populated with strangers and the sense of community that enjoined beyond the school house doors was also destroyed. When everywhere was the village, there were no more villages.

The next level is the college teams. Unfortunately, not everyone goes to college. In fact, only about 40% of Americans have a 2 year college degree, and about 70% of Americans don’t have the 4 year experience to align them to a particular college. In cities or suburbs with one or two major colleges there is of course the chance to be geographically attracted to a particular team. I don’t think that most people create that kind of bond. Most rabid college fans are 4 year folks who tend to be a bit older who were active in their college life back in the day. So of the 30%, I’d say that fewer than 10% of those of developed into lifelong college football fan.

You might think that veterans would gravitate towards those academy teams associated with their respective branches. My experience is that while there is some affinity, it generally rarely reaches the point of real fandom. I say this with some authority as the one time painter of the fence surrounding the Army mule retirement pen at Ft. Huachuca, AZ. Despite this, I never developed much an affinity for the Army team as the gap between officers and enlisted is necessarily wide.The few academy graduates (ring knockers) I knew, tended to be just a little crazy and, if possible, avoided by the enlisted folks. I can’t say that was true for all services (cough – Marines are special – cough), but for me and my corner of the Army, that was the case. 

Then there is baseball. I was never any good at baseball. It takes quite a bit of work to be really good at it, and thus possibly develop an affinity for watching it and becoming a fan. For a lot of millennials, baseball is a game for old guys to watch. It’s the kind of thing you would expect fat Uncle Willard to fall asleep watching from his easy chair. So, for an active fan, baseball just doesn’t inspire fan development – unless you have a team that gets to the World Series, then it’s exciting. Being a Nat’s fan, I have no practical knowledge of that. 

Finally there are the other (American, or seriously engaged in in America) sports that in my opinion just don’t quite make it. Here’s my not so comprehensive list:

  • Hockey: a northern sport at best since there is no ice in the south.
  • Golf: rich men’s game – good to watch when you need to get a nap
  • Fishing: dumb to watch – also good for napping
  • Racing (NASCAR and other vehicles): not a sport: i.e. not physical – the athletes are sitting down, fun to watch for crashes.
  • Skiing: rich man’s sport, fun to watch, mostly to see people crash
  • Horse Racing: again, rich man thing, only interesting if you can bet on it. Crashes are really scary and depressing.
  • WWF: fake – not a real sport
  • Boxing: definitely a sport, but singular – not a team thing.. no one really says ‘we knocked him out’
  • TV Endurance things like ‘American Ninja’: See Boxing above
  • Rugby: definitely a sport, and cool to watch. No professional teams, so the whole geography thing doesn’t work
  • Beach Volleyball: It’s a sport, but that’s not why men watch it

My larger point here is nothing fills the niche that professional football filled. Its demise is the destruction of a bond that pulls us together. That more than anything makes its loss a truly tragic thing.

So how can they fix this? I’m not sure they can. I suppose if every player that took a knee publicly apologized for his actions and appeared remorseful, I would reconsider. The chances of the bloated egos now playing in the NFL doing that are slim and none. I also suppose that the owners could categorically fire or suspend for a few years all those players that kneeled. That would do it, but again, those same owners allowed this happen and universally have shown a lack spine. There is very little chance they will do anything like that.

Finally, there is the very real possibility that once the players get this out of their system, they will go back to standing and everyone will just pretend that it didn’t happen. I think that is both the most likely and the most depressing option. That means that the kind of behavior they engaged in is nothing to the majority of fans. It would say a lot about the demise of our culture and out sense of ourselves. I don’t think I’ll ever watch another game. That’s my knee to the groin of these professional babies: an opposite and equal reaction.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Am I Blue?

Without much surprise this morning I opened up Drudge this morning  to read that once again my once beloved commonwealth had voted ‘blue’ again. From the highlighted headline and supplemental reading from Instapundit, I gather that the general consensus is that Gillespie ran a ‘Jeb lite’ campaign that didn’t sit well with the deplorable Trump electorate. I can’t disagree with that analysis. Having said that, allow me to offer the following counterpoint.

Since I was an original tea party republican volunteer back before it was fashionable to say such a thing or drive around with a Gadsden flag license plate, I am on the email list for the Prince William Country republican volunteers. Thus, in the closing days of the campaign, I was on the receiving end of more than a few emails asking for ‘poll help’ from my district head. Here’s the gist of the last email that I received from him:

Crunch time folks--we still need people to cover precincts on election day, in particular we need people at:

<list of precincts>

If you can help for a couple of hours it would help.

We also need help at the following precincts to give other volunteer a break during the day--working from 6 AM to 7 PM is a pretty long day.

Note, he is very persistent as this was just one of the numerous emails he sent out. I admire his diligence. On the surface he’s getting things done. The underbelly of the thing is another story. As anyone who has read my post is aware, I think the voting system in Prince William County is fatally flawed. I don’t necessarily attribute this to the County as much as the Republican’s unwillingness to confront the system and pursue the legal avenues they have available to fix the problem. Thus, this was my response:

I debated with myself as to how or even if I should answer this email, but in the end I thought I would anyway as there is some small chance that you and the other addressee here might just listen.

I know on some level you believe that posting people outside the polls handing out sample ballots makes a difference. I disagree with that, but it does seem to be the prevailing philosophy of our local party leadership, so by all means I admire your perseverance in following that guidance.

Where I have serious misgivings is your determination to see the outsides of the polls manned, while refusing, and, in the case of the 2016 election, doing your best to ensure there were no Republican observers in the polls in the district. When I questioned you about it at the time you brushed it off as only the concern of 'the campaign' to have observers in the polls.. a patently false premise that is the primary reason I have not assisted with any election effort since.

I see from these emails you are once again pursuing the same strategy. I do have to wonder though why you and the Republican leadership seem so steadfastly uninterested in observing what is going on inside the polls? Do you believe there is no possibility of fraud? If that is the case, why advocate for paper ballots? Is it not in the interest of a fair democracy to place those observers there to protect the one place where our citizens can influence our government?

Believe me, I do not come at this with vindictiveness or as some wild haired fanatic. I've seen year after year our party withdraw from observing the polls, while year after year I see the Democrats there observing. The neutrality of the polling places has  steadfastly decreased. There are Democratic flyers piled in chairs next to the polls, and in the case of absentee in person voting, the scanning of ballots seemed to be done multiple times. 

I certainly can't say that anything irregular was going on, but it strikes me as off that you and our county leadership seem to be taking the one thing that really matters, assurance of voting integrity, so casually.

So no, I will not take another vacation day from my work to assist you with what I think is merely rearranging the deck chairs on our party's sinking Titanic in Prince William County. Of course I and the other voting age adults in my family will go to the polls and vote, because that's our duty.

I do understand that you and the other party leaders are volunteers and are trying to do the best you can. I appreciate that. I also recognize that just because you volunteered, that doesn't mean that we should somehow expect less from you. The Army certainly didn't when I as a kid of 18 raised my hand over 40 years ago. 

I ask that you seriously consider my words and please consider moving those people inside the polls to observe, at all precincts, ones you are sure are fair and those where you know off things happen. I recognize they probably won't be able to spot irregularities, but at least they'll be there to give the Democrats who might be engineering some funny business some pause. 

And by all means find someone to man the absentee polls in the government center, at least occasionally; it's just across the street from the Hut - how hard is it to walk in there occasionally and see what's going on? Or look in on the mailed absentee ballot processing office. Until our county leadership gets serious about vote integrity, I can't really believe they are serious about winning state wide or national elections.

Ok, that's off my chest. I do sincerely hope we prevail and don't end up with yet another Democrat victory on our county. Good luck and prayers for a free and fair election.

His response was telling. Here’s what he said:

The committee leadership actually discussed this and based on what people who have actually worked the polls said decided that the outside should be the priority since if there is any fraud it's been committed long before Election Day i.e. during the voter registration process.

In any event, both the Rich Anderson and Scott Lingamfelter campaigns are having poll watchers inside the polls on 7 November.  I will forward you their respective campaign's contact info so you can coordinate with which ever one you want to help.

You should know that with 15 precincts in Coles we trying to do with 25 people what really requires at least 60.

All your ideas are great--too bad not enough people volunteer to actually do it.

So there is a nutshell is why we are stuck with a Democrat in Virginia’s governor mansion for another 4 years:

1.      The county leadership doesn’t think fraud is a problem, and somehow thinks the fraud has to do with something other than people casting votes on election day.

2.      The county leadership still does not take the lead in assuring the county’s polling places are observed and policed by Republicans, leaving the job to understaffed campaigns.

3.      The county leadership is having a hard time getting enough people to stand outside and hand out sample ballots. This inability to inspire us to ‘show the flag’ on election day indicates to me that the rot here goes very deep.

So what did I see when I went to vote? Well, first off, it was a cold, nasty wet day. The republican door stander had a canopy stood up and was huddled under that. The democrat guy was just standing there in the rain. I’m not sure what that says other than I actually felt a little sorry for the guy standing in the rain. I am thinking the republican stander outside guy probably would have been better served by not erecting the canopy. It’s sort of bad optics, but then again it was a little funny that the Democrat didn’t have the sense to come in out of the rain.

Inside, there was no line. I suspect that with the weather being like it was, there was an extremely low turnout statewide. That being said, there were three tables of poll workers there ready to serve. Note that poll workers are supplied by the county and are supposed to be neutral. I observed nothing about their demeanor or actions to lead me to believe that wasn’t true. 

The gentleman who checked me in was a little odd. He didn’t ask me for ID. In fact, he didn’t say anything about an ID, but said ‘welcome’ and put out his hand. I found that a little odd. If ID is required, shouldn’t he had stated that? It made me wonder afterwards what he would have done if I had not pulled out my wallet and handed over my driver’s license, but maybe handed him a credit card or a library card.

The check in desk was very modern. Gone is the process where a checker in has to laboriously type in a voter’s name or look up the voter in and huge bound book of names. Nope, the complete system is automated. The checker in gentleman used a scanner on my driver’s license barcode, and a beep later was reading me my name and address. All I had to do was nod ‘yes’ and it was off to the races. Note there was none of two step verification that we have gotten used to in our digital world. Heck there wasn’t even a one step process where he asked me to spell my name or cite my address from memory. So the security of the mostly free state of Virginia’s election is nothing more than a nod and a hand wave. Wonderful.

I did note that there were a couple of observers observing the proceedings behind the check in booth, and one old guy in the corner man spreading on a folding chair. I did not ask them who they represented, but my guess from their eager young faces and sincere expression was they were probably from one of the local campaign. I would also guess that given his sour expression and extreme man spreading, the guy in the corner was a democrat observer, but perhaps I am projecting my own white guilt on him (yes he was a white guy). 

In the county, and indeed I think the whole state, we have gone to paper ballots. The checker in gentleman took a pristine ballot from a stack on his desk, then inserted it in a large manila folder marked ‘ballot folder’ on the front and handed it to me. Unfortunately this is where my observation skills failed me. I do not recall if he scanned the bar code on the ballot before placing it in the folder. From a security standpoint, that would be a great way of combating fraud as the scanner across the room could be programmed to reject ballots that were not registered at the check in desk in front of God and everyone. This would not prevent someone going to in a back room and scan registering bulk ballots then voting, but it would certainly make it a bit more difficult. 

I took the folder containing the ballot that I had been given and walked over to the folding tables set up with partitioned writing areas where I was assured a pen would be provided to facilitate the performance of my sacred voting duty. I assume that the partition was there to preserve the secret nature of the vote. That was a singularly dubious accomplishment as there were no poll workers anywhere near by to enforce proper voter etiquette.  In fact, much like when you avoid looking at another guy business at a urinal, I had to have the discipline to avoid snooping at what the gentleman already sitting across the table from be was doing as it was nigh impossible for me not to see over the slight partition as I sat down. It’s hard for me to say what other voters did. The voting public is much like guys in a restroom: no one makes eye contact.

The voting process itself was mostly straightforward. The ballot was a sheet of paper with all the candidates listed for each office, the governor slate was at the top left, and the other races in descending importance from there.  Each candidate’s party was listed, with a helpful decoder provided in the instructions on the wall of the table partiton. I noted with some bemusement that we had both ‘Green’ and ‘Independent Green’ party candidates for governor. I wondered if maybe next year we would have ‘Republican’ and ‘Green Republican’ candidates in future elections. It might indeed come to that sad state.

After placing my checks in the appropriate boxes I started to get up. I paused though when to analyst in the back of my head woke up. It noted that a scanner of the vintage of the ones used in our county probably couldn’t read just a checkmark. I eased back into my chair and industriously colored in all the boxes for my selected candidates. The engineer in me did wonder what would happen to my ballot if I had proceeded and the scanner failed to see my vote. Would the lady at the scanner send me back to the voting table to fill in the squares? I am sorry to say I can’t tell you what would have happened. I can state that I didn’t see anyone get sent back to the voting table while I was there. It’s quite possible that either the scanner was quite advanced, or all the voter I saw were, like me, possessing above average square filling skills. At the very least, I would hope that the scanning software would alert the poll worker to a missed vote so that they could ask the voter if they really intended to leave that vote open. I suppose we’ll never know unless the scanner itself has some diagnostic output that is available to the public.

The line to scan was short. After only minutes of waiting I was at the scanner. There were two ladies manning the machine. One was apparently responsible for tearing the ‘I voted’ sticker into individual slips, and the other was there to run the scanner. There scanner itself was sitting on a low table. It only had one wire, a chucky orange extension cord which was plugged into the wall across the room. I what was surely an OSHA violation, the power cable was not taped down. However the ladies at the machine seemed to be made of stern stuff and I doubt they were troubled by the possibility of any minor drama from a fall. 

The scanner running lady instructed me to place my ballot into the scanner face up. In theory, the partition dividing the front of the scanner from the back of the scanner would prevent the lady from seeing my secret vote. In practice due to the five inch partition and low setting table, everyone present could have seen my vote, including the people who were crowding in behind me. At this point it occurred to me that the sense of privacy that I get while going through security at the airport where the TSA guy scans your ticket and ID and ask you questions while your fellow passengers stand ten feet away was a lot more intimate then when I scanned my vote. Of course voting is just a democracy thing, the TSA screening is life or death. I guess you can’t really compare the two. But perhaps you should, theater is theater after all.

Walking out I wondered where all this is going. Are we destined to become mere players in the play that or democratic process is becoming, or will our leaders come to their senses and take up their roles as guardians of our process seriously. I think it is past time that the county, state, and even national republican leadership take a very hard look at the voting process and do something about its decline. If not, there are more than enough barbarians at the gate that are willing to subvert the process. Theater indeed.