Charles Petzold on writing books, reading books, and exercising the internal UTM

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Happy Election Day from Real America!

November 4, 2008
New York, N.Y.

It sure is tough to vote where I live. The first big problem is the inconvenient location of the poll sites. I had to walk a full 500 feet from my apartment building to the New York University dormitory where they decided to hide the voting booths.

Then there's the typical confusion about Election Districts and Assembly Districts, what number is this and what number is that, wasting precious seconds of my day finding the right line.

And what a line! At least eight people stood in front of me, and I pulled a magazine from my back pocket in anticipation of a long wait.

Then I discovered I was in the wrong line! Because my last name begins with a letter from the last half of the alphabet, I was pulled out and made to stand in a much shorter line.

The most suspenseful part of voting is when the worker behind the table looks in the big book for your name — almost certainly expunged because someone with a similar name had a few too many parking tickets. But no, there it was as usual.

And then, as if on cue, the ancient voting machines with their curtains and levers and little knobs decided to keep on working as I stepped inside and registered my choices.

I had left my apartment at 8:40, and when I returned home — exhausted by the trials of civic responsibility — it was 9:00. Now I ask you: How can something as simple as voting be made so time consuming and complicated?

I live on an island called Manhattan, also known as the borough of Manhattan within New York City, and New York County within New York State.

The island has only 23 square miles of land, but is home to about 1.6 million people (source), a larger population than the states of Wyoming, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Maine, and Idaho (source).

In 2000, 14.2% of the New York County vote went to the current President (source), and in 2004, 16.7% (source), despite the fact that his party shamelessly held their convention in Madison Square Garden. It's interesting how those percentages no longer seem out of line.

I'm curious about the voting percentages this year. The recent talk about "real Americans" seemed deliberately to exclude me and my neighbors, and I even saw one candidate incite a crowd to boo the newspaper many New Yorkers read every morning!

Most optimal would be an outcome where all Americans — New Yorkers and otherwise — can work together in repairing the damage of the past eight years.


I live in nowhere America (Knoxville, TN) - neither candidate campaigned in TN after the primaries. Well, McCain did have a layover yesterday, but that's it. We don't get robo calls, or even that many ads. In fact, I've seen more ads for local city and county issues than presidential.

This year though, it took 30 minutes to vote. Most years is has been 5 tops. They say turnout is good for Obama... would be interesting to see TN show up blue for once. Maybe we'd get more ads next election!

Michael C. Neel, Tue, 4 Nov 2008 10:44:40 -0500 (EST)

You are a real American. You live outside the Beltway. You work for a living. You have to live within a budget.

Don't go out of your way to take offense. Outrage can be addictive.

Personally, I think our federal governement works better when divided. It's hard to tell your own party "no". If your own party deserts you you have *no* support.

If Senator Obama wins, the Democrats will want all sorts of payback. They'll want to cash in. (Remember the '70s?) They may even try to prosecute the previous administration. That would be bad. Remember the Roman Republic?

— BobW, Tue, 4 Nov 2008 11:11:58 -0500 (EST)

You are kidding, right? Only 500 feet and only 20 minutes and you are complaining?

I live in Argentina, where voting is mandatory, and I will be real happy with you pleasant (for me) experience.

edddy, Tue, 4 Nov 2008 11:40:31 -0500 (EST)

I am kidding, right!

In some places in America, people wait for hours and hours to vote. I don't understand it. Maybe the Powers-That-Be in those places really don't want a lot of people to vote. — Charles

I'm glad to hear that everything went so smoothly for you! Unfortunately, that is not the case for many. Even some in your own area are being forced to fill out provisional ballots due to either poll worker incompetence or other assorted problems:

— Takuan, Tue, 4 Nov 2008 12:07:37 -0500 (EST)

I was told you still have to own land in order to vote. I was dismayed at first and decided to research that claim. I then realized my favorite show, "Hole in the Wall", was on and forgot to look it up.

They should make it so I could text my vote during that show.

— Ian Patrick Hughes, Tue, 4 Nov 2008 12:27:08 -0500 (EST)

Real Americans would never use so much cynical sarcasm - that's for the poms!

Andrew, Tue, 4 Nov 2008 18:29:30 -0500 (EST)

One thing is for sure Real Americans voted and real Americans voted for change!!

— Anthony, Wed, 5 Nov 2008 07:06:57 -0500 (EST)

"Most optimal would be an outcome where all Americans — New Yorkers and otherwise — can work together in repairing the damage of the past eight years."

I agree that the Bush administration has not been good. I believe a large part of why Obama won was simply because he convinced people he was running against Bush instead of McCain. "Change" - from what?

Well, now we've got Democrats completely running the country. We'll see if this is a good thing or not.

I'm surprised you seem to prefer the Democratic party. I was self-employed as a single person for many years, and I think my taxes are high enough already. It takes a lot of work to keep them under 35%.

Traditionally, Democrats have taken my money to pay for cable for the unemployed. This is not a generalization; I do a lot of work with my church among the needy, and I've been in hundreds of homes of people who do not work (not because there aren't jobs - because they don't *want* to). Every single home, without exception, has at least a 36" widescreen TV, with cable. Every. One.

With a completely Democratic-controlled country, we'll probably also see a big push with the health care situation. (This is something else you've blogged about recently). Is it a problem? Absolutely. Will social health care solve it? Absolutely not. Removing some of the current restrictions on health care providers will enable the system to correct itself in time.

We need less government intervention, rather than more. Too bad the Republicans have followed the Democrats in this area; I've voted Republican (for president, anyway) in every election of my life until this last one.

In this last election, the only candidates that really stood a chance of correcting the situation were all independent.

Stephen Cleary, Fri, 12 Dec 2008 10:01:48 -0500 (EST)

> I'm surprised you seem to prefer the Democratic party.
> I was self-employed as a single person for many years,
> and I think my taxes are high enough already.

I am deeply offended that you would think I would vote with my pocketbook. Instead, I tend to take a moral perspective on politics, and have been extremely shocked and dismayed by the rampant immorality of the Bush administration.

Some might prefer to attribute its failings to stupidity or incompetance, but many of the defining actions of the Bush administration — the invasion of Iraq, the erection of the prison at Guantánamo Bay, the use of torture, the attitudes that let to the abuses at Abu Ghraib, the disdain for science that led to complete neglect (and even denial!) of global warming, the disdain for institutions such as FEMA that led to the horrors following Hurricane Katrina, the war against the United States Constitution, the war against core American (i.e. Enlightenment) values — are very much in tune with fundamental Republican values.

I much prefer a President who speaks out against this immorality and who instead wants to more towards a better and more comprehensive health care system. That's a President who shares my values. — Charles

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