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In the lead up to today’s primary vote, I’ve been hearing/reading the phrase “South Carolina picks the President” which is always followed by a pair of disclaimers which invalidate the statement. In our current era of constant hyperbolic predictions by the media, I wanted to point out how important those disclaimers are.

The first disclaimer is “…because whoever wins the South Carolina Republican primary wins the nomination.” This might be hard for some people to comprehend but it’s important to remember that the Republican nominee for President is not actually the President of the United States of America. To date Clinton and Obama together defeated three Republicans: Bush in ‘92, Dole in ‘96 and McCain in ‘08.

The second disclaimer is “…since 1980.” Which means that the relationship between the South Carolina Primary and the eventual nominee is a relatively new one. 32 years might seem like a long time (it’s longer than I’ve been alive for one) but that’s only eight elections. Three of those primaries/nominations went to incumbent Republican Presidents (Reagan in ‘84, Bush in ‘92, Bush Jr in ‘04) and one was to the incumbent VP moving up (Bush in ‘88). That leaves four other primaries/nominations were there was some suspense: Reagan in ‘80, Dole in ‘96, Bush Jr in ‘00 and McCain in ‘08.

South Carolina shouldn’t be bragging about 32 years of presidential accuracy when they really mean 8 of 8 and more accurately 4 of 4 or 5 of 5. In that same period though the state has given all eight of its electoral college votes to the republican nominee, though the Southern Democrats have made some close races (Carter in ‘80 and Clinton in ‘92 and ‘96).

Most importantly there is a third disclaimer that no one will say out loud: “South Carolina isn’t the deciding factor in the nominations.” It’s only the third state in the archaic and undemocratic primary system and with many more states to vote before the national convention. The people of South Carolina’s primary votes have lined up with the last eight nominees but that’s no reason to think that will happen a ninth consecutive time or a tenth or so on.
Thankfully South Carolina is not America. It’s just a small part of it.

I first saw Patrice O’Neal in the fall of 2002 when he joined Comedy Central’s Contest: Searchlight. The mockumentary followed the imaginary contest that had lead to the creation of a tv show called “Jesus and the Gang.” Peter Gallagher had been “hit by a car” and could no longer play the title character so Patrice was brought in to play the character in western wear. He described his character as “Big Black Cowboy Jesus” and sweetened an already funny show.

After that I searched out a few recordings of his stand up on the untamed internet of the day. He had a brilliant way of twisting the ordinary and could be delightfully vulgar. Whatever he was talking about he could always make me laugh, sometimes in spite of myself.

My friends and I planned a trip to New York City for March 2003 and to get in the mood the night before I went to see “25th Hour” a second time in the theater. Patrice had a scene in that as “Khari” a bouncer who gives Ed Norton’s character some advice about prison. I left the movie excited about the adventures I was about to have.

The second night we were out there we wound up in The Comedy Cellar without realizing how significant a place it was. We had a wonderful time tucked away in a corner which gave us a view of the whole room including the stage and the entrance. As the show went on I wondered if the only comedian I wanted to see would be there. And then halfway through the night, a large man entered and went through the center of the room towards the bathroom. It was Patrice.

My knee started bouncing under the table and I had to wait another two comedians before he came on but it was worth it. I can’t remember how he got on the topic but he did a really long bit on the sound of a penis going into a vagina. It was everything I thought he would be.

When I got home I put on the tape of the Chappelle’s Show that I missed while travelling and saw Patrice as Pit-Bull attending the Playa Hater’s Ball. It was the most Patrice O’Neal-ish week possible.

Ever since then I tried to follow his career and keep up with his appearance on the second episode of Arrested Development, Shorties Watchin’ Shorties, his comedy specials on HBO and Comedy Central, guest appearances on The Office and more.

Hearing that he had a stroke last month was upsetting but I held out hope that was dashed this morning as he passed away. I’ll always remember how much laughter and insight he brought to my life. Thanks for everything Big Black Cowboy Jesus!

I’m not sure why I bothered but I decided to look at the Feather River Bulletin’s website today. It’s as poorly designed and inessential as you’d expect a small multi-town news organization t’s site to be. But against my better judgment I read three articles and was shocked by each one. I never really read the paper while we lived there, but I have to wonder if it was always at this quality (after my Mom stopped classing the joint up that is).
continue reading "I shouldn’t have done it"

As we all wait for Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell to be repealed either now or in the future, I’ve been thinking about a meeting my grandfather went to back in May of 1977 and the statement released afterwards.

In 1977 the Episcopal Church allowed the ordination of women and one of the early and most contentious ordinations was that of Ellen Marie Barrett who was a lesbian. Discussions and arguments spread across the country and my grandfather, Rev. Mac R. Stanley attended a meeting of California clergy. I know a little bit about the meeting from his journal entries and what a gay clergyman said to me at his funeral, but the conversation reached a turning point when my grandfather spoke late in the day.

Afterwards they released a statement in full support of Rev. Barrett and other gay clergy. I can only find it excerpts of it online but what is there is I think still noteworthy:

Gay men and women have made enormous contributions to the Church … daring all, risking all — to serve unfalteringly people who if they knew they were homosexual would turn on them in confusion, or horror, or unease …. It is only from the outcast that we can ever be redeemed, only from that which we want to cast out of ourselves that in finally facing honestly we can ever become whole men and women again. Jesus’ whole life is a statement about that …. If homosexual men and women are not good enough to serve at the altars of the Lord who went to a cross for us all, then perhaps they are not fit in any capacity to serve or minister …. The Church, like all institutions, has always accepted homosexuals when it was to its profit, convenience, and benefit. What it has not done is to be honest about that, to be forthright, to give back the love it has received. I have seen a fine and distinguished bishop of this Church, Kilmer Myers, walk unfalteringly to a cross on this issue, as he asks us to look again at a Christ who holds out hope, confrontation, forgiveness, new possibilities, and redemption for all of us equally. If Ellen Barrett…if homosexual men and women want out of their sadness and joy, to reach out lovingly — what about that is so threatening to us? … Can we look at what the Church’s legalisms have done to people? I call the Church to not only look at that. I call the Church to repent …. The real business of the Church … is to reach out and help bring in the Kingdom of God to our world …. In the name of God, I urge you to help this saintly bishop to start the process now.

-Statement to the Clergy Conference (topic: “sexuality”) – Diocese of California – the Rev. William H. Barcus III, May 5, 1977

This of course took place five years before I was born and I didn’t hear about it until at my grandfather’s funeral when a gay clergyman (whose name I don’t recall) came up to my grandmother  with me, my mother and then Bishop of California and thanked her for all my grandfather had done that day for gay rights.

You can find what I quoted and a lot more information at

Yesterday Postmaster General John Potter unveiled a controversial plan to save the Postal Service by cutting the number of post offices and dropping Saturday delivery.  I think those are both great ideas to address how people use the mail system now, but they aren’t thinking forward enough.
First off they need to address the fact that people aren’t sending as much through the mail any more since they can do everything electronically. On August 6, 2009 Potter spoke to Congress about the state of the USPS and in his prepared remarks of 8,035 words he never said “email” “electronic” or even “computer”.  (Though he did discuss budget issues and employee benefit costs to which I have no insight.)
Of course, the people on the front line know what’s going on.  NPR interviewed Daniel Jones the postmaster of Asheville, North Carolina to get his opinion on the proposal and how the post office has changed through time.  He cuts right to the point and points to a decline in the volume of mail sent which can be instead done through the internet.  People send emails instead of letters but also bank online which eliminates the statement mailed from the bank, bills sent from a third party and a check mailed back.
And while those might be bad for the USPS, they’re great for everyone else.  In addition to banking online being more convenient, it’s so much better for the environment.  We use less paper and don’t have the carbon footprint of mail trucks and planes sending an slip of paper across the country.  The USPS is actively refusing to Go Green.  Which isn’t surprising since it will cost them their jobs.  But here’s the thing about that, if someone’s job only exists to give that person a job, then it’s unnecessary.  This isn’t the nicest thing to say while we’re in a recession, but lots of other people have had jobs that were rendered obsolete over the course of human history.  Today NPR even put together a slideshow of jobs society decided it didn’t need any more.  And while NPR didn’t say this was in reference to postal carriers, I think it’s pretty clear where their inspiration came from.
The big defense of the Post Office is that “it’s part of the community” and a “place to meet and locate, you know, to congregate, to get together and talk”.  This is simply a lie.  I live in a moderately sized city now and I’ve lived in a small town and I’ve been to smaller towns and I can categorically say that no one goes to the Post Office to hang out.  No one decides to go to the Post Office to see what the word on the street is.  Anyone at the Post Office is just counting the seconds until they can leave the Post Office after standing in that DMV-like line, talking with the unorganized and unprofessional person behind the counter and waiting for them to dig around in the back room for whatever it is that they came in for.
The Post Office is not a pleasant experience.  And what’s more, we’ve seen it done better.  FedEx and UPS are both superior systems that offer better tracking and customer service, but it’s comes with a higher price tag.  Is there a middle ground? Yes, we just have to look to the dry cleaners.
Automated dry cleaners are the wave of the future.  With these systems people drop off their clothes with a machine and get a ticket they return later and give the machine back their ticket and after paying the clothes are returned.  It’s quicker, easier and cheaper and available around the clock.  Some of these are even drive-throughs.
So how does the Post Office adopt this?  Here’s the journey of mail in the future:
My mom wants to mail a package to me, she goes online and fills out the information, a label prints out which she puts on the box.  At the same time I get an email that a package is on its way to me. The next time she goes to the now fully automated Post Office she inserts the box into its bin, the barcode is scanned and the pack is identified.  The mail travels to my local Post Office and I get an email that it has arrived.  I stop by the Post Office on my way home from work and wave my ID card (or fob or phone or whatever) at the sensor, a bin opens up and I collect my email and my mom gets an email I’ve picked up the package.
It’s a quick and painless operation for both my mom and me that works on our schedule.  The costs are low because there are the fewest people necessary involved and the infrastructure costs are divided among the many users.
That’s a better mail system for everyone involved and I came up with it after a single day of thinking about it.  It doesn’t even require new technology to be developed, just properly applied. Let’s stop thinking about how to save jobs we’ve evolved past and start thinking about how to make the world work better for us all.
Let the post office die. We can rebuild it-we have the technology.

I’ve always been annoyed to hear people talk about “how celebrities die in groups of three.”

Over five days we lost Robert Mulligan, Harold Pinter, and Eartha Kitt. Which are all great losses but is it a frightening phenomenon that they all die around the same time? Does the death of one famous person mean everyone else should be nervous?

No. One celebrity are likely to die around the same time as two other celebrities simply because there are so many of them now.

Andy Warhol said it best, “In the future everyone will be famous for 15 minutes.” There is a constant parade of new artists, writers, actors, musicians, athletes, politicians, reporters, and people who are famous for no reason (people on YouTube, Joe The Plumber, anyone from a reality show, anyone from an MTV reality show) who add to the old classic famous people.
So not only do we have new famous people coming up every day, but now our old famous people are Old! Mulligan was 83, Pinter was 78 and Kitt was 81. As harsh it may sound it’s not uncommon for people in their 80s to die.

So now we have too many celebrities and too many old celebrities. It just makes sense that there would be a steady stream of dying celebrities that observers can group into threes.

Just a few notes on things I was thinking about that should be revisited…

continue reading "A Few Follow-ups"

What a day yesterday was.

Obviously I’m thrilled about Barack.  I’ve been wanted him to be president since his speech  at the 2004 DNC.  And what’s impressive, is that the message he delivered then, is the same thing he promised during his campaign and I am supremely confident that he will deliver.  It was a thrill to hear him speak last night in a wonderful speech that managed to encompass his campaign ideals, the history and founding ideals of America and the grand expectations and forward thinking to carry us into the future, what ever that may be.

Also I enjoyed John McCain’s speech.  He sounded like he did in 2000, which was a welcome regression.  As we stand here and look forward to the future we have a lot to do and I believe we can do it.  Barack will need a First Hundred Days akin to FDR and he’s getting ready.  His transition teams are moving amongst the government now and he’s constructing his staff. How’s that for Ready on day one?

And I wouldn’t be surprised if the Lincoln parallels ccontinue and we see another Team of Rivals.  But hopefully Karen Sebelius gets in there too.

But the triumph of Barack (which I figured was a given in the morning)  came with the sting of prejudice and hate in the form of Prop 8. A truly horrific bill that shamefully appears to have snuck through and passed as of now.  Things could change but it’s doubtful as they count more ballots we’ll find a stack of NOs.  But this afternoon when I stopped by the Supreme Court I was told that 3 different groups are trying to over turn 8, each with a different strategy.

So while we’re moving forward in one way, we’re still dragging in another.  But the fight isn’t over.

And here are a few smaller things that I was watching…

continue reading "It’s morning again in America"

Today, right now is the election.  I voted early and had a little line, but nothing to complain about.

I have a great feeling that Obama will win.  It’s tremendous.  But I’m nervous that Prop 8 might.  Let’s hope people aren’t so evil and foolish as to pass it.

Today is being called “the most important election of our lifetimes.”  And that could be true.  But I don’t think we’ll know until in the future looking back.  Because 2000’s feels pretty danged important.  Though comparing the two elections, this one has much more a build up and Obama will represent much more of a change and a follow through on everything America represents.

But hopefully his presidency will be more important than Bush’s and will leave more of a lasting mark.  In fact, if Obama can simply undo what Bush has done, that will be enough and 2008 will be the most important election.