Calling Florida Voters

Kate and I just got back from spending a couple of hours calling registered Democratic voters in Florida; in St. Lucie County, Florida, to be a little more specific. We went down to an office building in West Berkeley were a Kerry-Edwards phone bank had been set up, bringing our own cellphones and chargers. We each got a list of about 50 voters, their precincts, and their phone numbers, along with a script to use. The script was basically, “We need every Democratic voter in Florida to turn out.”

A couple things I didn’t anticipate:
–How positive and engaged people seem to be. I had about eight or ten people tell me they had voted already; all but a couple of the half of the people on the list who answered their phones were interested, were upbeat about voting, and most said they were glad to get the call. I had one person say she was too ill to get out and vote, one who said it just wasn’t a good time to talk, and one person who said she’d gotten repeat calls and was a little tired of it.
–How positive and upbeat I felt: You know, after months and months of taking in the campaign through the media, or getting involved only to the extent of making donations, you get to feel that it’s all an elaborate charade. Going someplace here in Berkeley and calling a bunch of people all the way across the country seemed kind of lame. But talking to people who were actually going to the polls, who were pumped up about voting, who were enthusiastic about the candidate’s chances — hey, it made me feel like calling, or doing a little something to at least try to make a little bit of a difference.

I’ll find someplace to go and volunteer tomorrow, too, I think.

The Politest Candidate

Cimg2534One of my favorite candidate posters in this year’s ultra-genteel Berkeley City Council race. “Norine — competent and professional.” Which actually makes you wonder what her opponent, the one whose slogan is “incumbent,” has been up to. (Actually, the opponent/incument is named Betty Olds, and she has been associated with mean-spirited and semi-daffy behavior in the past.)

Update: Despite her daring vows of competence and professionalism, Norine Smith got just 18 percent of the vote. District voters delivered a mandate (80 percent) to the Betty “Slipshod, Slapdash” Olds.


Visiting Pete and Niko up in Napa last night, Kate and I found out that an old friend from the Daily Californian, Torri Minton, had died. Forty-seven years old. We last saw her in January: We had gone up to a restaurant a few blocks from here one Saturday night when Tom was out with his friends. We walked in and Torri was there with a friend of hers from the San Francisco Chronicle. We said hi and I ate a couple french fries off her plate; though we hadn’t seen her for a year or two, probably, it was like running into one of your closest friends. She and Kate exchanged emails, but we didn’t wind up getting together again. The Chron’s obit said she was diagnosed in April with a very aggressive form of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma that rarely strikes adults. She died in August.

We worked together only briefly — a couple years at the Daily Cal in the early ’80s. I can’t claim to have been one of her best friends or anything, but I think everyone who got to know her would tell you that she radiated all sorts of qualities: toughness, intelligence, heart, joy, humor, beauty. It’s stunning, though not surprising, how quickly the people who have added something big or small to our lives along the way can vanish.

Jack and Doris

Discoveries about two of the fringe characters I’ve happened across and blogged in the past few days.

First: Jackson Kirk Grimes, the head of the United Fascist Union, apparently takes himself and his candidacy seriously despite his campaign photo, which depicts him holding up one hand in a “Hook ‘Em Horns” (or some obscure neofascist salute) sign and wearing in a Roman centurion’s helmet turned sidewise (see earlier post). Someone commented on that post, directing me to the United Fascist Union web site, It’s there that you learn that Jack Grimes is not just a guy with a wry sense of humor, but an earnest political missionary spreading the word about a kinder, gentler fascism to groups like the Flying Saucer Society of Dover, Delaware. It’s one of the bigger disappointments of this campaign season to find Grimes takes himself seriously.

I also scribbled something about the full-page ad in The New York Times earlier this week that revealed the anti-Bush word of God through a woman named Doris Orme of Bonita Springs, Florida. I didn’t really look for any background information on Doris before. Today I did and discovered through a 2001 story by the San Francisco Chronicle’s Don Lattin that Doris was one of the Rev. Moon’s earliest converts here in North America; that she and her husband, Dennis, were married in one of Moon’s first mass weddings here; and that she and Dennis have broken with Moon (why would you need the reverend when you have your own line to God).

Street Scene

Cimg2515_1I needed to go to the bank earlier this afternoon. I went over to a branch on University Avenue instead of going up to North Shattuck as I usually would. Walking down California Street, several blocks from our house, I spotted someone lying on the sidewalk up ahead. This guy. From a distance, I couldn’t tell if it was someone taking a nap, passed out drunk, or hit over the head. When I passed him, a young guy, I called out. He didn’t move. I kicked one of his feet. He didn’t move. So then I decided, not being a big fan of leaving people unconscious on the sidewalk, that I’d call the police. They dispatched an officer who, after putting on a pair of latex gloves and grabbing her baton (whatever happened to “billy club”?), immediately roused the guy, who seemed pretty loaded on something. When I left, she had him on his feet and was going through his pockets, maybe trying to figure out who he was. When I walked back by 20 minutes or so later, they were gone.

In Other News …

I actually have a new story on Wired News today: “Space Race Focuses on Money.” It’s the problem that has beset the new space companies for years: So far, few in the investment world are wild about the prospect of space tourism or backing companies that are pushing speculative technology (of course, when the speculation involved dumping hundreds of millions into an online grocery story or pet supply store, the venture capitalists and investment bankers were lined up around the block to get a taste).

The Tour vs. Lance

This sounds familiar: The Tour de France organization has unveiled a route for next year’s race that’s designed to make sure Lance Armstrong has a tough time defending his title. When the Tour unveiled the 2004 route, marked by extremely challenging mountain stages, including a time trial up l’Alpe d’Huez. The route would make it more challenging for Lance, who looked vulnerable in 2003’s mountain stages, to grab his sixth consecutive TdF championship. He responded with one of his most dominating Tours.

The Tour organizers’ apparent strategy this year is different: Go easy on the killer climbs and cut the length of the time trials. That way, Lance’s greatest strengths will be minimized. The organizers have an interest in keeping the race competitive, though the biggest factor in next year’s outcome — whether Lance will compete in the TdF in 2005 — is beyond their control. Still, last year’s route ought to have made a couple of things plain: Make the race tougher for one, and you make it tougher for all. And for the cyclists at the very top of the sport, the result is about preparation (and to a much smaller degree, luck; I’m thinking of Alexander Vinokourov here, who rode a beautiful race in 2003, then crashed before the Tour and couldn’t start in 2004). All of the other riders who were expected to threaten Lance last year cracked, partly because the route was brutal for all of them, partly because none was so prepared for it as the defending champion.

My President Wears a Helmet

GrimesOK, this is by way of a press release. But it’s still interesting. Some Europeans, apparently including Mathias Rust (read about him here, here, and here), the German teenager and perhaps crazy guy who made headlines back in the late 1980s by flying a Cessna from Hamburg to Moscow’s Red Square, have launched a site called Leader of the Free World for anyone, anywhere to choose a candidate in our election next Tuesday.

Yes, it’s frivolous. But it’s also a little sharper than a simple online poll. Voters are asked to agree or disagree to 10 statements. For instance: “Gross human rights violations are a sufficient justification for a country to bring down a tyranny by military force even when there is no consensus within the international community.” Your answer falls on a continuum from complete agreement to complete disagreement with the proposition; you can also vote neutral. After you’ve done that, your responses are tabulated against a list of 65 candidates who appear on ballots somewhere in the United States.

So here’s what I found interesting: I went through the process, and got my list of candidates. So, Number 65 on my list was George W. Bush. That’s reassuring — I really am voting against him. Kerry was Number 40-something. Nader was Number 5. And my Number 1 candidate, the one with whom these 10 statements show I have the greatest affinity, is Jackson Kirk Grimes, whose party is abbreviated on the ballot as “Fasc.” That turns out to be short for “United Fascist Union.”

Grimes’s background includes a stint in the Army (’68-’72), experience as a stockbroker and as an actor in “Shakespearan off-Broadway productions.” He is or has been a member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, the Eagles of Lackawanna County, and the Screen Actors Guild. His earliest listed political experience is from 1967, when he served as a storm trooper for the “Facist [sic] Freedom Front.” He wants to legalize drugs, repeal limits on gun ownership, guarantee the right to abortion, do away with affirmative action, and spend a lot more money on the military and education while canceling spending for homeland security. Also, he likes to wear what looks like a Roman centurion’s helmet with the plume turned sideways (see above). A real maverick.

It’s also interesting to me that of all the Democratic candidates, the one who was listed first on my candidates list was Kerry. Everyone else, whether it was closet Republican Joe Lieberman or ultralib Al Sharpton, ranked between Kerry and Bush on the bottom end of the ballot. Of course, I haven’t really looked into how the rankings are derived.

Those Multinational Sox Fans

Just one little complaint about something the Fox network did during the coverage of the Red Sox’s clinching game tonight. They kept cutting away to an American military base in Iraq. Fine — the boys (mostly) stayed up all night to watch the ball game; they deserve their fun, too; though I think mixing that into the coverage is a not-so-subtle way of expressing support for the way. But the caption (font or CG, in TV jargon) that Fox displayed when the boys were on the screen said “Multi-National Force Iraq.” What, were there some Iraqis and Brits and Bulgarians watching the game on camera, too? Beyond the idea of “multi-national force” being an absurd fiction — another attempt to blur the reality this is our national project — the decision not to say these guys in fatigues cheering and applauding were Americans was just kind of nutty.

Red Sox Moon

Cimg2419The Red Sox completed their World Series sweep as a lunar eclipse unfolded in our eastern sky. I think the Boston guys were up 3-0 already when the eclipse started, and the moon got most of my attention after that. So, the Red Sox win. Can the Cubs be more than a decade or two behind?