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October 24, 2006

What? No Politics?

From the e-mail:

It's been a week since you've written about politics! Are you not feeling well?

Heh. First: I feel fine, thanks.

Second: I haven't been writing about politics because for the last week or so I don't think I have anything particularly constructive to add to the conversation, so anything I'd write here would just end up looking like a smeary mimeograph of DailyKos or Atrios, and I don't want that for myself.

Third: Honestly, at this point, what can one add? I mean, when President Bush is soft-lobbing himself up into the air to be viciously spiked, as he did over the weekend with his "We've never been 'stay the course'" idiocy, I find myself at a loss for words. It's like kicking a vomiting dog, you know? Crap like that makes me pity George Bush, which is a wholly unearned emotion on his part.

What I really want is what I generally really want at this point of any election cycle: For the election to be over, so I know where we all stand with our politics for the next couple of years. I just want it to be done, and that brings with it an almost aggressive apathy regarding all the little twists and turns of the campaigns. This is not the same as saying I am apathetic about voting. You better believe I'm going to vote. It's just that everything else at this point makes me want to crawl into my office and do nothing but play video games between now and November 8th.

This is a known aspect of my personal pathology, so I don't find it problematic. I do suspect it means I'll not actually run for public office, however, since if I get this way about other people's campaigns, just imagine how I'd get about my own; I'd spend the last two weeks on a campaign hiding in my room, and that's just no damn good.

Now, it's entirely possible that something in politics will attract my attention between now and election day, and then I'll write about it. But if it doesn't and I don't, it's not that politics isn't worth commenting about, it's just me want to distract myself from thinking about every single moment of the day for the next two weeks. I do hope you'll understand.

Posted by john at October 24, 2006 05:38 PM

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KL | October 24, 2006 06:13 PM

Amen. I wish I could keep distracted, unfortunately it's always like watching an accident in slow motion -- I can't turn away, and just stare at the carnage and gore in fascination...

Dan | October 24, 2006 07:09 PM

Personally, I think that would be a great way to run an election. Just shut the candidates up for the two weeks before the election and let people do the research on their own.

As for not having anything political, I was wondering if you caught this little piece:
Some Voting Machines Chop Off Candidates' Names

It's not about any partisan antics. It's actually about the validity of the voting process as a whole. I was just curious if you had an opinion on this.


John Scalzi | October 24, 2006 07:25 PM

Yes: Bring back paper.

Jim Winter | October 24, 2006 07:27 PM

Funny. This past week, I've had to choke the urge to post MORE about politics. That sumbitch Kenny Blackwell really gets on my nerves.

And then I get a letter from Jean Schmidt telling me how her opponent, Victoria Wulsin, eats babies. She addressed it to "James and Joyce Winter." My wife's name is DIANE!

Hmm... I don't have any children and Wulsin's campaign got my name and Diane's right. Guess which box I filled in on my absentee ballot?

Whoops. I guess Secretary of State Blackwell's going to invalidate my vote for that.

Screw him.

Hilary | October 24, 2006 07:30 PM

I certainly understand your desire to run away and play video games; I have been polishing my skills at Luxor as of late. The other thing that I have been doing was following the live stream of talks at the POPTECH conference. They are supposed to get this years’ archived and online soon; I really suggest listening to some of these people, they are very smart. My favorite was Thomas Barnett; if you have an opportunity to hear him speak do so. Dawkins was there though not quite as interesting as I had hoped and Craig Venter was fascinating if a little arrogant, the Eco group was very good as well. John, you and the Whaterever constituency are certainly types that would appreciate this material. Oh and for the record, I think you might be good at the political thing as long as you don’t start self censoring (what are the chances of that).

Adam Ziegler | October 24, 2006 07:38 PM

Seems like a useful sort of pathology you have there. Like an earlier poster, I can't distract myself from it either, though to do so would surely bring at least temporary relief.

Hmmm, videogames....

Hilary | October 24, 2006 07:47 PM

Hey posted my little ditty before I saw your post Jim. Come to San Diego where the poll workers get to take the Diebold machines home for the weekend prior to the election, and the speaker of the house gets to swear in the “winner” before the election is certified by the registrar of voters, and the courts say it isn’t their place to intervene with duly elected officials (even though they haven’t quite yet been elected). I’m all a lather, but then you knew that.

Steve Buchheit | October 24, 2006 07:58 PM

Well, actually the the close race here in Ohio has been good for business. The printer I work at is a union shop, so we've been very busy since August with political work, for both sides. As one of the few mid-sized printers left, it's been a good run of business. I just hope we have something to put ink to paper about after November 7.

Laurie Mann | October 24, 2006 08:14 PM

I find I don't have quite so much time to worry about politics as I'm working. Funny thing how much less you worry about politics then...

OTOH, Scott Dennis via Fred Ramsey gave me a "Santorum = Sauron" T-shirt. While the analogy doesn't quite work (Sauron was smart, after all), I will wear it this weekend.

Kristy | October 24, 2006 08:48 PM

makes me want to crawl into my office and do nothing but play video games between now and November 8th.

Oh, how I feel that pain. There's one candidate here in particular, running for the state legislature, who's been inundating me with fliers telling me how Republican her opponent is (he's trying to paint himself as a moderate). She's really pissing me off, so she's lucky that I happen to have an exceptionally low opinion of her opponent, given his voting record as mayor. If not for that, I'd vote for him just because she's annoying the crap out of me.

Nathan | October 24, 2006 08:56 PM

We here in NYC not only get to watch our own campaigns, we also get subjected to all the New Jersey campaign ads. New Jersey, always a train wreck, is not disappointing this year with Tom Kean, Jr. ("more Bush than Bush") taking on Bob Menendez ("kickback taking extortionist").

Kean's got one ad that is so annoying and so insipid (it doesn't really say what he means it to say), that runs MILLIONS OF TIME A DAY.

Finally last night, in a rage (and yes with a wee tot of Jameson's in me), went to his website, hit "Contact Us" and asked him to kindly shut up already.

Video games might be a good alternative.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden | October 24, 2006 09:34 PM

I do think you're a bit hazy about what "mimeograph" means. Even in its loose sense, it always meant the machines, not the copies they made.

CJ-in-Weld | October 24, 2006 10:50 PM

Hmph. See defintion #2: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/mimeograph

Jonathan | October 24, 2006 11:10 PM

I don't so much care if they keep paper (vice voting machines)... but with all the problems abound, I just want positive confirmation my vote was actually counted. I don't care about anonymity; I simply want to visit a website to confirm my votes made it in the final tally. This could be done with a simple md5 hash of my vote. And while I’m dreaming, hell, let me vote on-line from home.

Nathan | October 24, 2006 11:14 PM

It's hard to really pin down definitions of mimeograph. As soon as you start thinking about it, the fumes start getting to you.

A.B. Dick rules!

Tim Walker | October 24, 2006 11:22 PM

Amen to bringing back paper. Here in Austin we had these nice oversized paper ballots - something between A4 and legal size, with the easiest-to-read names you ever saw in your life. Charcoal pencils, too. Nice setup. It made it all the more painful to see the endless replays from Florida in 2000. As I understand it, the system we used was susceptible to a single-digit error rate per presidential election, i.e. you might have half a dozen errors out of a few hundred thousand ballots cast. Plus you had the paper ballots handy in case you wanted to, you know, check your work or anything.

But was that good enough? Could we just mimic the same perfectly good technology and ship it to Florida, Ohio, and everywhere else in the world? Nooooo . . .


I don't have any videogames to play. Maybe I'll go read a sci-fi novel . . .

Mark | October 25, 2006 01:32 AM

Feel free to fail to write about politics for a while. My area is getting so bombarded with political attack adverts that even those of us who don't watch much TV are fed up with it.

On a side note, did you see the Very Short Stories article in Wired? Personally, I thought it was a glaring oversight to not include you and was wondering if you'd been asked what you would have written.

Patrick Nielsen Hayden | October 25, 2006 07:15 AM

Regarding that Dictionary.com definition #2: In several decades of using the damn things, buying supplies and equipment for them, and even (briefly) working for one of their major manufacturers, I never heard the word used that way. For what that data point is worth.

Donna | October 25, 2006 07:20 AM

I'd vote for him just because she's annoying the crap out of me.

I suspect a great number of our elected officials end up in office this way, actually.

We here in NYC not only get to watch our own campaigns, we also get subjected to all the New Jersey campaign ads.

I live on the ME/NH border. Not only do I get all of the Maine and NH political ads dumped on me, I also get the pleasure of being tortured by all of the big Mass. campaigns as well. So I'm feeling your pain, Nathan.

Scott Mactavish | October 25, 2006 07:41 AM

The shenanigans have commenced in Virginia.

The senate race is tick-tight, and the voting machines are hosed.

The state officials say it won't make a difference. Poppycock.

Both parties should raise holy hell to ensure the voting is as clean as possible, and the tar and feathers should be immediately applied to the voting machine company's management.

Bollocks to politics. Voter fatigue has officially set in, and I need a vacation from all of those bums.

Scott Mactavish | October 25, 2006 07:56 AM


Just so your post above, sorry for duplicating the link.

Yes, it's all about the integrity of the voting process, regardless of your beliefs.

In a a race as tight as that in Virginia, do we need any lingering questions?

Steve Buchheit | October 25, 2006 07:57 AM

And just to pour gas on the fire, has everybody noticed that the 2008 campaigns have started? This is being said as somebody who is really 50/50 about running to keep my council seat next year.

Scott Mactavish | October 25, 2006 08:19 AM

Thanks, Steve.

I just threw up in my mouth a little bit.

Steve Buchheit | October 25, 2006 08:27 AM

Scott, sorry about that. I'm going on the assumption that was about the 2008 elections, not me thinking about my own 2007 election. The good news is that unless you're in Iowa, New Hampshire, or... what is the state that moved up their primary to be ahead of NH(?), you might not notice unless you read "below the fold" until after the holidays. While nobody has officially declared, many have officially formed committees or have taken themselves out of the race.

Dean | October 25, 2006 08:52 AM

RE: mimeograph. I remember people using the term 'mimeograph' to mean both the machines and the copies they made. People also used to shorten it to 'mimeo'. I remember teachers in school handing out 'mimeos'.

Steve Buchheit | October 25, 2006 09:05 AM

Dean, see, what I remember is sniffing the mimeos. I could be wrong, my memory has never been the same. :) Ah, the days before we tried to make childhood "perfectly safe."

Memories, like the corners of the something or other,

Josh Jasper | October 25, 2006 09:14 AM

What I really want is what I generally really want at this point of any election cycle: For the election to be over, so I know where we all stand with our politics for the next couple of years.

"It's not the despair. I can take the despair. It's the hope I can't stand." -John Cleese in Clockwise

WizarDru | October 25, 2006 09:59 AM

I'm mostly waiting for the elections for two reasons:

I'm REALLY tired of the ads, like everyone. Especially Lois Murphy's ad that was so unintentionally funny, it made FARK.

Second, certain ditto-head in-laws will hopefully pull back their level of rhetoric one way or the other, once the elections are passed. Voices were recently raised at a family gathering, early leavings resulted.

What I wonder is this: how can someone who's party is dominant in both houses of Congress and the executive branch and who has appointed more members of the SCOTUS than not (not to mention dominating the local state versions of same, except for the governership) act at being SO PERSECUTED? It simply confuses me.

john | October 25, 2006 10:11 AM

While our politics are in opposition, I'm in complete agreement with you on this: I just want it over.

I, too, will definitely be voting. But the increasingly shrill, negative ads (from both sides) is driving me nuts. Thank God for the DVR-power of FF.

ern | October 25, 2006 10:50 AM

Let me second that. Without my DVR I wouldn't be able to watch TV at ALL.

And yeah, I know my politics are pretty much the opposite of the prevailing opinions here as well, but I certainly share in the general election fatigue. But it's only going to get worse until 2008, and then it begins all over again...

Tor | October 25, 2006 11:01 AM

PNH - I would imagine that is the case for the same reason you never hear the people over at Xerox using the word 'xerox' to describe the copies their machine made. Assuming that you worked for a company that had licensed the trademark, they would have had an interest in protecting it, and likely were contractually required to protect it. I'm not sure that the exact date was that mimeograph became generic, and therefore anyone could use it (apparantly it happened when the patent expired) - but it may be the reason you never heard mimeograph used in that way...

Nathan | October 25, 2006 11:30 AM

I googled (heh heh) and came up with this entry on "genericized trademarks". It has a handy list of them. Who knew "Kiwi fruit" was supposed to be a brand name?

JT | October 25, 2006 12:09 PM

I watch very little TV except Battlestar Galactica, which is on the dish so no political commercials, and don't listen to the radio since they don't play the music I listen to anyway, but it still seems like every time I turn on the TV there's an ad with one candidate smearing the other, and then they flip sides and go at it the other way. I'm with y'all, just wanting the next two weeks to be over so we can have all the stupid commercial ads back instead of all these political ones.

But, I too, am voting, because I don't think you have the right to complain if you didn't vote, and because there's some candidates that I'd really rather not have running my state, or representing my state on Capitol Hill.

The only shining light I see is one of our state reps who hasn't run a single negative ad yet that I've seen (the only one of three local politicians I've met and gotten to know who hasn't done that) and who pitched in quite generously to a little fundraiser we did a couple years back for a local man who he'd never met. So there are a few politicians out there still worth the oxygen they're consuming, even if most of them spend more time and money running down the other guy than telling us what they actually stand for and would do for us if elected.

Nathan | October 25, 2006 12:17 PM

Oops. forgot to put up the link.


Tripp | October 25, 2006 12:26 PM

Pardon me, but I'm pretty sure the smelly copies that schools made were dittos and not mimeos. I think a mimeograph used a different technology that didn't provide such wonderful vapors.

Dr. Phil | October 25, 2006 12:52 PM

So there are a few politicians out there still worth the oxygen they're consuming

Now there's a SF description of a politician -- just imagine a phrasing like that in a deep space colony. Forget impeachment if they screw up -- just space 'em. (grin)

Dr. Phil

Chris Gerrib | October 25, 2006 01:51 PM

Regarding memeographs - I think it's a regional thing. My (Illinois) school always referred to the copies produced by our memeo machine as "memeographs."

Tripp | October 25, 2006 02:01 PM

Well, if the copies were purplish and had a nice 'spirit' smell then I maintain it was created by a ditto machine. Mimeographs were another cheap way to copy but they did not use any solvents. On the other hand 'mimeo' fell from trademark to generic term and maybe people referred to ditto copies by the generic term.

Tor | October 25, 2006 02:12 PM

Tripp - your knowledge of cheap ways to get high in highschool thirty years ago is staggering.

Oh, and also, you're right.


Steve Buchheit | October 25, 2006 02:57 PM

Tripp, they always called them "mimeos" where I went to school (Southern NJ and then NE Ohio) until "Xeroxes" (Xeroxii?) replaced them. I never saw the machine they were made on, but I remember that smell, or rather the effects of the scent so they were probably dittos. Sigh. That and good markers, not so much the ones that smell like grape, etc. Like I said, the memory isn't what it used to be. Also, if I may, I like the coincidence of your name and the topic. :)

andrew | October 25, 2006 03:07 PM

My views are counter the convential view on this comment thread.

However, I am a self-confessed political junkie; my 15 minutes of fame came by being interviewed with a bunch of my junkie friends on CBC radio. I got to play with a Dade County voting machine from the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

I really can't get enough of politics. I love the polls, the maps the ads, watching the returns with my geeky political junky friends. I have actually gone to a friends house to watch the provincial election returns from Nova Scotia; not only am I not from Nova Scotia, I have never been to Nova Scotia. I think my friend's wife puts up with this because it is much preferable being a politics widow than a hockey widow.


Tripp | October 25, 2006 03:08 PM

Ahem. Well, I've always strived to keep myself well -informed. Combine that with an advanced age (50) and difficulty forgetting things and there you go.

"Tripp" is a nickname based on a family name. My given name is "Griffith Lyle" which was only useful for teaching me how to fight at an early age.

Steve Buchheit | October 25, 2006 03:23 PM

Tripp, I was just commenting on the coincidence. I've read your posts in other threads, so I knew it wasn't a moniker for this topic. It's like meeting a funeral director named Doug Berry. If it doesn't at least bring a sardonic smile to your lips, your just not paying attention.

Tor | October 25, 2006 03:45 PM

I must not be paying attention. Are you talking about the coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers?

Steve Buchheit | October 25, 2006 04:00 PM

Tor, not unless he side-lights in the funerary profession. I mean, it's a somewhat normal name, unless you work in planting grapes or people. I mean, I guess if they worked for Welches or Ocean Spray that would also be funny.

MWT | October 25, 2006 04:02 PM

Meanwhile I've decided that this blog is going to become my main source of political information from now on. Normally I couldn't care less about politics - trying to follow it just makes me tired.

But here it's presented in an entertaining way and everyone is capable of carrying on an intelligent and civil discussion, and there are people representing all sides. I actually enjoying following the comment threads.

Martyn Taylor | October 25, 2006 04:03 PM

Over here we not only have independent election officials, we also have strict limitations on political advertising on tv and radio (and they have to comply with the Advertising Standards Authority rules; you know, decent, honest and true)

Honestly. Truthfully. Voted for by Parliament itself!

Mimeos, hektographs, John Bull kits. Lovely memories.

Nathan | October 25, 2006 04:31 PM

And I've decided that this blog is going to become my main source of ironic name/profession juxtaposition from now on.

May I submit Rick Santorum as a condom wholesaler.

(sort of stolen from a commenter on Josonblog, but I couldn't help myself)


Hilary | October 25, 2006 08:33 PM

Tripp I'm not throwing down, it's not a contest, but just try growing up male with Hilary as your first name. Had a fight every damn week of elementary school, luckily I hit my growth early and pow that sure stopped 'em.

Laura | October 25, 2006 11:36 PM

Speaking as a Canadian, they'll have to pry my paper ballot out of my cold, dead hands...You guys should really go back to that.

Jim | October 26, 2006 03:21 PM

If even Rhode Island is smart enough to use paper ballots (fill it in, feed it into a machine that scans it AND stores it in a locked compartment just in case there is ever any question AND a counter on the side of the machine increments) then I fail to see why any other method would be used. After a career in computers I know that I would never trust one of those electronic voting gadgets.

Plus -- a bit off-topic, but...

I see that the lead article on TCS today -- Edward Driscoll's "The Era of Big Cinema Is Over"
http://www.tcsdaily.com/article.aspx?id=102606A quoted you: "And as author and blogger John Scazi wrote at the time, 'When Hollywood's best films can't compete with chilled, aquatic birds, there's something going on.'" Okay, so he spelled your name wrong but the "John Scazi" was an accurate working HTML link to the Whatever, so I guess that makes up for the off orthagraphy.

Hugh | October 26, 2006 04:42 PM

So, let me get this right.

A Republican talk-show host, Sean Hannity, says "Negative Ads won't work" and "the Democrats shouldn't use the Race card"


Did anyone feel the Earth wobble?

Melanie | October 27, 2006 12:36 AM

I feel the same way and swore off the political writings a week or so ago. I do this before every election because it's the only way to keep my sanity.

Ed Driscoll | October 30, 2006 12:57 PM

Hi John,

Whoops--after the TCS Daily piece went up, someone pointed out the typo on another blog, and I wanted to apologize for screwing up your name--I think I simply typed too fast, and missed it proofing the article.


Edwd Drscll

John Scalzi | October 30, 2006 01:10 PM

Hi, Ed.

I have no idea what you're talking about (i.e., haven't seen the article in question) so no worries. That's the magic of the Web, though: You can always make a fix.

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