Now that Thanksgiving is over, let the shopping frenzy begin! After all, isn’t that the essence of the Christmas season?

Speaking of Christmas, I really dislike seeing stores and towns put out their Christmas merchandise and decorations earlier and earlier each year. This year I noticed that Wal-Mart had several aisles of Christmas decorations out two weeks before Halloween. Yes, I recognize that Christmas is the major money-making season for businesses, but pushing the season earlier and earlier really doesn’t help them as most people don’t shop any earlier for presents. I wish stores and people would enjoy each season and holiday as they come, rather than trying to rush into the next one.

OK, rant over. Now back to the leftover turkey. Mmmm…….

Today is Thanksgiving Day, our holiday celebrating the bounteous harvest of the Pilgrims. Since that time, we gather to celebrate and give thanks for the things we have been given. I am thankful this year for God, family, and country.

God

Since everything we have comes from God, I am thankful for all the things He has given me. While I try to thank Him by doing what He says, I know that will never be enough. King Benjamin explained it this way:

I say unto you that if ye should serve him who has created you from the beginning, and is preserving you from day to day, by lending you breath, that ye may live and move and do according to your own will, and even supporting you from one moment to another—I say, if ye should serve him with all your whole souls yet ye would be unprofitable servants.

Family

I love my family, both the one I was born into and the one I married into. The times of greatest joy and happiness in my life have come from being with my family. Nothing else I do in my life will be as important or ultimately as meaningful as the time I spend with my family. David O. McKay once summed this up with the statement, “No other success can compensate for failure in the home.”

Country

This is a land of freedom, and the twin freedoms of worshiping God and serving my family are cornerstones supporting the continued success and freedom of our country. “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.” While this quote is often attributed to Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America, it doesn’t appear anywhere in there. But whether or not the statement is his, the sentiment is true. No other country has done so much for so many others. While we may not always be popular with other nations, America has been successful in freeing over 50 million people from oppressive governments. Regardless of whether you love or loathe President Bush, he has been very successful in offering freedom to the world by seeking to destroy tyranny and terrorism wherever it lurks.

God, family, and country — three blessings that I am especially thankful for this November.

[The following was an email The Pirate King sent to Bill Whittle of Eject! Eject! Eject! in response to his recurring theme of Europeans despising Americans. I felt it was worthy of a wider audience, since I love my honey. Besides, there is a sublime irony in pirating stuff from The Pirate King. -- Captain Midnight]

The French–and several other European nations–like to accuse us of simplisme. It’s a nice vague term which seems to accuse us of being simple as well as making things overly simple, and its unstated obverse is that intelligent, sophisticated folk recognize and accept a life filled with nuance, neither simple nor easy.

Once upon a time, this disdainful attitude rubbed me the wrong way. I was astounded at the hubris of Germany, France and Russia when they refused to join us in waging war against a common enemy, believing that the entire effort would come to naught without their token assistance. I was annoyed by Jacques Chirac, who in a petulant fit snubbed our Commander-in-Chief by refusing to call and congratulate him on his re-election for a full week after the event. M. Chirac further grated on me by showing his historical ignorance and deep ingratitude by pointing out to Prime Minister Blair that England had “gained nothing” by its loyalty to the United States in this war. (How soon, simple Monsieur le President, we have forgotten the Ardenne Forest and the beaches of Normandy. I do hope your nuanced view of the world accepts of such concepts as “debt of gratitude.”)

But I have come to a point where I no longer rankle at Europe’s high-minded tendency to treat our nation as an ill-behaved, headstrong child. The thing that caused me to change my mind was, oddly enough, the recent death of my grandfather. At his funeral I had some time to think about the particulars of his life, and it turned out to be quite illuminating.

Grandpa was born in Sweden in 1922. He was an unwanted child, passed from relative to relative until his teen years, when he became apprenticed to a butcher and delicatessen owner. There he learned the fine art of food preparation and became a talented cook. But he did not stay in Sweden to ply his trade; the butcher warned his teenage apprentice that the National Socialists were rising to power in Germany–and that Scandinavia likely would not lift a finger to stop them. So, on the wise advice of his boss, he went to America.

It didn’t take Grandpa long after he got here to sign up for military service. As a champion skier who held several ski jumping records in his home province, he was placed with the ski troops. He came home alive, but missing a leg and riddled with cancer. Doctors gave him six months to live; miraculously, the cancer went into full remission and those six months turned into some 60 years. Rarely did he speak of the war, preferring to focus on work, family and sailing. It wasn’t until some 40 years after his service that his military files were declassified and he was free to talk about precisely what he had done in World War II. But he always recognized that his service, however horrific, was necessary to keep America and the rest of the world safe and free.

Europeans would probably have called my grandfather simplisme. They would regard him, an unwanted child from a backwater province of an unimportant country, as “the wretched refuse of [their] teeming shore.” But Grandpa had some special qualities within him, even as a teenager: intelligence, ability, a drive to succeed, and the willingness to relocate to a land that would foster his success.

A generation ago, there were still people like this in Europe. In America, we usually call them “immigrants.”

I maintain that much of Europe despises America not because of our simplisme, but because of our strength as a people. And to be honest, we have them to thank for it. Certainly in these days, more immigrants come to the U.S. from outside Europe than from within it–but in previous generations, the overwhelming majority of new Americans came from the Old World. Any European who displayed a trace of gumption, drive, or desire to succeed packed up, moved and became an American. The immigrants’ determination and zest for life enriched our national can-do spirit, and their love for their adopted country boosted our natural patriotism. Modern Europeans, on the other hand, are the direct descendants of those individuals with little or no natural drive–those who stayed behind. Their anemic bloodlines show in their indolent unwillingness to act in their own best interests, like an old purebred dog covered with bloodsucking ticks who is too lazy even to scratch at them. (By contrast, we are a mongrel nation, but a strong and healthy one.)

My grandfather always kept his love for Sweden. He had a Swedish flag, cooked Swedish food, and on occasions when he returned to visit Sweden, the tears would well up in his eyes. Sweden was, after all, the nation of his birth. But America was the nation of his choice. This was the country that harnessed his desire to fight evil in the world, supported his desire to make something of his life, and provided him with safety and peace in his old age. This unwanted child of Europe became something worthwhile in America–and his story was not at all unusual. His immigrant experience was solidly typical of the experience of millions who left their own countries to seek something better–and found it in America.

And if you don’t think the Europeans are jealous of that, then you really are simple.

A fairly common phrase by the Marxist Left is “I support the troops, but I don’t support the war.” Taking them at their word and believing that they honestly do support the troops, the obvious question then becomes: well, how do you support them? The Department of Defense has posted a page outlining what American citizens can do to make the lives of the brave men and women of the armed forces better as they stand “between their loved homes and the war’s desolation.”

My wife and I have decided that we don’t need Christmas presents this year, and we have informed our families. We would much rather have everyone pick a program for sending wanted or needed items to the people serving our nation. After all, we can drive down the street to pick up the things we need, but our fighting forces usually can’t do the same. The DoD link above lists lots of different ways people can support the troops. Personally, we have decided to go with Any Soldier as our way of doing our bit. So far we have sent off one package of stuff to a specific group of marines in Iraq, and we have a second package almost ready to send. (Hi there, guys!) This year, I urge you to skip a few presents and a night out, and put that money towards a few items our men and women in uniform would like to have. Whether you voted for President Bush, Senator Kerry, or Foghorn Leghorn, this is a simple way of showing – not merely saying – that you support the troops.

Talk is cheap, but actions count.

Speaking of talk, there’s been a great deal of discussion in the news about the marine shown shooting a wounded man in Fallujah. The Marxist Left have been crying and beating their collective chests over the shooting, and they are demanding the marine’s head on a platter. But the Left cuts this both ways: they have their video showing the marine acting in a not-so-peaceful manner to the voice-over commentary of “More tragic deaths today in a war we never should have started,” but had the marine kept his gun lowered and been subsequently killed by a bomb-wired insurgent, the voice-over commentary would have been “More tragic deaths today in a war we never should have started.” I pray that this marine will be completely vindicated in the upcoming court martial, regardless of what the clueless are saying about the Geneva Conventions.

Hindrocket posted this email he received from a Marine in the 11th MEU that explains the situation much better than I could:

This is one story of many that people normally don’t hear, and one that everyone does.

This is one most don’t hear:

A young Marine and his cover man cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with Ak-47′s and RPG’s. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, “Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!” He is badly wounded, lying in a pool of his own blood. The Marine and his cover man slowly walk toward the injured man, scanning to make sure no enemies come from behind. In a split second, the pressure in the room greatly exceeds that of the outside, and the concussion seems to be felt before the blast is heard. Marines outside rush to the room, and look in horror as the dust gradually settles. The result is a room filled with the barely recognizable remains of the deceased, caused by an insurgent setting off several pounds of explosives.

The Marines’ remains are gathered by teary eyed comrades, brothers in arms, and shipped home in a box. The families can only mourn over a casket and a picture of their loved one, a life cut short by someone who hid behind a white flag.

But no one hears these stories, except those who have lived to carry remains of a friend, and the families who loved the dead. No one hears this, so no one cares.

This is the story everyone hears:

A young Marine and his fire team cautiously enter a room just recently filled with insurgents armed with AK-47′s and RPG’s. There are three dead, another wailing in pain. The insurgent can be heard saying, “Mister, mister! Diktoor, diktoor(doctor)!” He is badly wounded. Suddenly, he pulls from under his bloody clothes a grenade, without the pin. The explosion rocks the room, killing one Marine, wounding the others. The young Marine catches shrapnel in the face.

The next day, same Marine, same type of situation, a different story. The young Marine and his cover man enter a room with two wounded insurgents. One lies on the floor in puddle of blood, another against the wall. A reporter and his camera survey the wreckage inside, and in the background can be heard the voice of a Marine, “He’s moving, he’s moving!”

The pop of a rifle is heard, and the insurgent against the wall is now dead. Minutes, hours later, the scene is aired on national television, and the Marine is being held for commiting a war crime. Unlawful killing.

And now, another Marine has the possibility of being burned at the stake for protecting the life of his brethren. His family now wrings their hands in grief, tears streaming down their face. Brother, should I have been in your boots, i too would have done the same.

For those of you who don’t know, we Marines, Band of Brothers, Jarheads, Leathernecks, etc., do not fight because we think it is right, or think it is wrong. We are here for the man to our left, and the man to our right. We choose to give our lives so that the man or woman next to us can go home and see their husbands, wives, children, friends and families.

For those of you who sit on your couches in front of your television, and choose to condemn this man’s actions, I have but one thing to say to you. Get out of your recliner, lace up my boots, pick up a rifle, leave your family behind and join me. See what I’ve seen, walk where I have walked. To those of you who support us, my sincerest gratitude. You keep us alive.

I am a Marine currently doing his second tour in Iraq. These are my opinions and mine alone. They do not represent those of the Marine Corps or of the US military, or any other.

Semper Fi, brother. Semper Fi.

I like to read. No, actually I love to read. I take a book with me pretty much everywhere I go. I read while I’m eating lunch, I read while walking to lunch, and I’ll be reading as I walk back. I take a book with me to the bathroom, and I read when I’m waiting in line. I tend not to be concerned about time spent waiting, because I have my book with me. I read my mail in the morning, and I read in bed before I turn out the light and go to sleep. I am guilty of reading packages and ingredient lists when nothing else is around.

I keep telling myself I don’t have that many books, but there are 22 boxes of them still waiting to be unpacked after our recent move. I’ve placed a higher priority on getting the kitchen and computers in working order, but that hasn’t stopped me from opening a few boxes and pulling out a book or two to re-read. I say “re-read” because I can’t think of more than 2 or 3 new books in my collection that I have never read. I’ve read most of my books multiple times. My wife loves to tease me when she sees me re-reading a book, asking if it’s different this time. I’ve begun to ignore her. It’s a husband thing. But I like re-reading books. It’s like visiting a good friend and telling stories about experiences you have both shared. I also like listening to music multiple times and watching movies over again. Just because I know the ending doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the experience again. And sometimes, when I notice something I’d missed before, it is different this time around.

But not everyone feels this way. At one family reunion, one of my wife’s cousins made the statement, “As far as I’m concerned, all fiction is a waste of time.” My wife and I stood there in slack-jawed wonder, stunned at these words. By his own admittance, this cousin has not read a book since he graduated from college some 20 years ago, and he believed he wasn’t missing a thing. Since my wife and I both love to read, we couldn’t understand this attitude. But we’ve noticed that it’s not all that uncommon for even moderately educated people to consider the phrase “reading for pleasure” an oxymoron. So of what use is reading?

Well, for one thing, books make a huge difference in our culture and our daily lives. Edward Bulwer-Lytton famously wrote, “The pen is mightier than the sword.” When you consider all the things that have happened in this world because of the influence of a few books, it’s obvious that the printed word has done more to change history and society than warfare — and quite a few books have agitated people to warfare. Let me list a few books: the Bible, the Book of Mormon, the Qu’ran, the Bhagavad Gita, the Veda, and the Tao Te Ching. Through the influence of holy writ, billions of people have found inspiration, guidance, and enlightenment. Don’t believe me? How about Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, and Mein Kampf? These three works alone have instigated the death of over 100 million people in the 20th century. They certainly changed history and society for those who died. But these books, whether holy writings or political manifestos, are usually considered non-fiction. Of what use, then, is fiction — or is it, as the cousin put it, just a waste of time?

I like fantasy novels all right, and I have a bunch of Tom Clancy paperbacks in my bookcase, but my favorite genre has always been science fiction. It is an often-maligned genre precisely because detractors say it is unrealistic. After all, it’s not very likely that we’ll see human beings invent faster-than-light space travel in our lifetimes, and all these made-up aliens probably have nothing to do with real extraterrestrial life forms — if indeed there are any in existence. But science fiction is useful because it often teaches the reader about scientific concepts in a way that is easy to digest. I enjoy seeing how authors can take a concept and spin a plot or the setting of a novel around it. Robert L. Forward did that very well in his many books. His specific intent was to teach scientific principles through novel writing, and in my opinion he did an excellent job.

Science fiction and other genres also open a reader up to the possibility of unusual new concepts; it’s a way of stretching your brain. I’ve listened to a few friends complain that they couldn’t follow the plot of The Matrix or other science fiction movies; that they were too difficult to understand. When I hear that, I can’t help but think to myself, “Gee, you must not read much.” While The Matrix was stylistically interesting, it didn’t bring up any concepts that were new to me. I had already been exposed to the idea of a reality behind our reality in several novels I had read.

Perhaps most importantly, familiarity with fiction opens the reader up to a complex world of cultural literacy only hinted at in other media, a world that is far too easy to miss. My wife once observed two college students looking at a James Christensen painting titled Aslan in Eden. “Who’s Aslan?” asked one. “No idea,” the other replied blandly, and they walked away. Christensen was trying to convey a message, but his illiterate audience of two had failed to receive it. To understand the message, one must have at least a passing familiarity with both The Chronicles of Narnia by C. S. Lewis, and the first few chapters of Genesis. Without that knowledge, Aslan in Eden is just a picture of an underdressed blonde chick seconds away from becoming a lion’s lunch. When one understands the subject matter, the single painting evokes myriad ideas and lines of discussion. While it is possible to enjoy James Christensen’s work solely on the merits of its fun and whimsy, for some subjects you need to know the back story. And you’re not very likely to get it through osmosis alone.

I love the works of Terry Pratchett. While his books primarily deal with life on a flat disk on the back of a giant turtle flying through space (believe me, it makes sense in context), I get more enjoyment from the many sly references to current pop culture, literature, history, movies, and anything else that strikes Pratchett’s fancy. Many of these references are hidden in the narrative, so people have taken to annotating his books. Without at least some knowledge of the original works being parodied, the reader will miss much of what Terry Pratchett has written. Likewise, William Shakespeare’s plays appear to be nothing more than a bunch of prancing actors saying “prithee” if one does not have at least a basic understanding of the history, mythology, religion and geography that Shakespeare considered to be common knowledge for his audiences.

How can you come by all this background information? Well, you could hire a battalion of tutors to instruct you, or you could spend every waking hour in a classroom. But it is far easier and cheaper to spend some time reading books on various subjects. The more you read, the more knowledge you will gain, the more you will be able to make mental connections, and the better you will be at making fast, accurate decisions. Since this is a world of constant change, the key to success is reacting quickly and properly to a new situation. Again: adapt or perish.

Adapt or perish.

This is not just a simple catch-phrase. It has been proven often enough to reach the same level of trust as Sir Isaac Newton’s law of gravity. Here on Earth, that which cannot (or will not) change and adapt will not long survive. A plant that cannot adapt to changing weather will die off in periods of extra rain or sunlight, while those plants better suited to handle changing weather will survive. Several months ago, I hung two potted plants from the front porch overhang without realizing that they were shade-loving plants. While I kept them well watered, the hot afternoon sun scorched them over the passing weeks. They couldn’t adapt to direct sunlight.

People demanded that logging stop in the Pacific Northwest because the northern spotted owl supposedly couldn’t adapt to living anywhere other than in old-growth forests. We discovered that spotted owls were more adaptable than we had thought when they were “spotted” nesting in abandoned Kmart signs. While this says nothing about their taste in stores, it does show that spotted owls can adapt. The dodo and the Carolina parakeet (actually a type of parrot) are two bird species that failed to adapt to humans and the animals they brought with them. The last known dodo died in 1681, while the Carolina parakeet became extinct in 1918. As the glaciers melted and pulled back, the mastodons and many other Ice Age animals failed to adapt to the warming weather and died out. If you look at the entire history of Earth, over 90% of all animal and plant species have failed to adapt. You could say that the default state for any species is to be an honorable mention in some National Geographic article on extinction.

The concept does not just apply in ecological terms. Nations and civilizations must also learn to adapt or perish. History is filled with once-great nations that no longer exist. While not every fallen nation has vanished away, there is a long list of once-powerful nations: Minoa, Sumeria, the Anasazi, the Vikings, Egypt, Babylon, Assyria, the Hittites, Greece, Troy, China, Persia, India, Rome, the Mayans, the Inca, the Olmecs, the Toltecs, the Aztecs, the Holy Roman Empire, the Ottoman Empire, Spain, France, Holland, England. A people or nation that cannot adapt to changing times tends to fade away. The nations that used bronze weapons were no match for those armed with iron. Nations armed with iron were no match for those using steel. The mounted French knights at Agincourt were no match for the British longbows. It is said that military generals are always ready to fight the last war all over again, but those generals who fall into this trap have not adapted, and they and their troops are likely to perish for this mistake. Terry Pratchett wrote a tongue-in-cheek story of a battle between the Greeks and Trojans where both sides created large wooden horses and waited for the other side to bring them into the city. Humor aside, it is easy to illustrate the horrors of fighting a war unprepared, as when Polish mounted cavalry charged German armored tanks at the beginning of World War II. While I think this act arose more of desperation than from a backward-looking mindset, the results were just as gruesome.

As in war, so in business; a company that cannot adapt will also fail. With the advent of the automobile, buggy-whip makers faced a loss of business. It’s easy to find examples of adaptable and non-adaptable businesses. When The Inkwell, a book and stationery store in Corvallis, Oregon, found that the stationery business was insufficient to stay afloat, the owners expanded into selling home furnishings. Now The Inkwell, despite its odd name, thrives. In the 1980s and 1990s, WordPerfect was the gold standard in word processing software; now it claims only a tiny fraction of market share; Novell’s NetWare was likewise the leading networking OS, but it has lost its lead to Microsoft. Novell, who at one time owned both these software programs, has tried to adapt by branching into Linux software and suing Microsoft. Microsoft will pay over half a billion dollars to Novell to avoid going to court over NetWare’s failure to compete, but Novell is continuing to press a suit about Microsoft having unfairly caused WordPerfect to shrink its market share. Having worked at WordPerfect Corporation during the time it was bought by Novell, I know exactly why WordPerfect failed — not because Word was a superior product, nor because Microsoft shut Novell out with unfair business practices, but because Novell utterly failed to develop and market its own product. If Novell fails to adapt, it too will perish. (I am composing this comment, as I do all my comments, on my trusty copy of WordPerfect. It’s still the best.)

Political parties that do not adapt will fail. The Federalist Party was replaced by the Whig Party, which was replaced by the Republican Party. Nothing says that either the Democrats or the Republicans will remain viable political parties forever. If one or the other fails to adapt, it will vanish away. Some commentators are pointing to the recent election as an indication that the Democrats have failed to adapt to the facts of modern life and are still stuck in the 1960s. While this argument rages on, my wife pointed out an interesting set of reactions from the Marxist left:

The Left’s response to 9/11/01:
“Tragedy. Why would they do such a thing to us? Clearly we do not understand them; we are ignorant of their beliefs and traditions and do not yet recognize why they feel they were justified in what they did. Could it be that they *were* justified? As a nation, we must humble ourselves, make an effort to learn about their customs, culture and religious beliefs; only then will we begin to understand why this happened.”

The Left’s response to 11/2/04:
“Terrible, ignorant, backward people did this! They are all bigoted, primitive religious fanatics devoted to a worthless, outdated worldview, and progress frightens them! We realize now that they are all around us, everywhere, and if our way of life is to continue, they MUST be stopped!”

Am I the only one who noticed their logic is just a tad widdershins?

Adapt or perish.

Today is Election Day in the United States. Initially I thought this was a day specifically prescribed by the Constitution, but a quick reread shows that the first Tuesday of November (assuming it isn’t also the first day of the month) is not specified as election day. That was later decreed by Congress. This would explain why several states have come up with the idea of “early voting” this year as a response to the many cries of “disenfranchisement” raised in the 2000 election.

What is disenfranchisement? Rather than the generic definition of depriving someone of a franchise (“Go away, you! This is my McDonald’s now!”), disenfranchisement in this political arena means to deprive someone of the right to vote. There are laws on the books right now that strip convicted felons of the right to vote, as well as the rights of freedom and free assembly, among others. Because of their actions, felons have lost their right to vote. Our laws also disenfranchise another large group of people — non-Americans. If you are not a citizen of the United States, you may not vote in our elections. But give it some time, and you will find that more people will petition that non-citizens be given the right to vote here.

There are people who claim that accidentally voting for the wrong candidate disenfranchised them. Remember the folks in Floriduh? “I’m such a blithering idiot, I can’t follow a simple punch ballot.” Assuming that these people actually were thickheaded enough to pick the wrong guy, they did vote, so they were not disenfranchised. They were just morons. Then there is the often-used lie that a million blacks were disenfranchised in Florida because their votes were not recounted, or because there were over-votes (more than one vote for President on a ballot) or under-votes (no votes for President on a ballot). In each case, the people were allowed to vote; thus their rights were not denied. About the only voters who ran the risk of being disenfranchised were the military voters whom Democrat lawyers petitioned the state to ignore — this from the same people who chanted “every vote should count” later in November. Oh, the irony.

In reality, when Democrats and Republicans say that every vote should count, they mean two different things. Democrats mean that every vote should count by all the people, dead or alive, citizens or not, for as many times as they voted. This is why the dead of Chicago vote again and again, and why Chad Staton got crack cocaine from a NAACP worker in Ohio for filling out 124 false voter registration forms. “Vote early and vote often” is not just a silly phrase for Democrats. Republicans mean that every vote should be counted once, and only once, for every legal voter because that is what the law says. But this idea is too strict and narrow-minded for the Marxist Left. They want their power back, and what’s a little voter fraud between friends as long as they get what they want?

I’ll tell you what I want — I want every American citizen who cares to vote, to vote once and only once. I would not force people to vote. I would not fine people who choose not to vote. But I would strictly prosecute anyone who votes illegally in any way. The first thing I would do is require everyone to register to vote again, making all current registrations null and void. To register to vote, each citizen would have to prove his or her identity with a valid photo ID and proof of U.S. citizenship. When I got my new driver’s license last month, I had to prove I was who I said I was with a valid out-of-state license and birth certificate papers, and having proven who I was, I took advantage of the “motor voter” laws to register right then to vote. But I could have walked down to the county voter registration office and registered to vote with nothing but some proof that I lived in the county. No photo ID or proof of U.S. citizenship was necessary in that office; it would have been easy to fool them. Clearly, proving your identity for a driver’s license is more important in this state than ensuring a clean voter registration roll.

Second, I would ensure that you must be present to vote. This means I would not allow absentee ballots, since unless you are present there is no way of proving you are who you say you are. If you cannot be in your home district to vote, then you cannot vote. The only exception I would allow would be for active military deployed overseas. When a voter arrives to vote, three things would be necessary: a valid photo ID like a current state driver’s license or U.S. passport, proof of citizenship, and proof of registration.

Third, I would ensure that the ballots are not easily tampered with. After proving identity and citizenship, the voter would then sign his or her name to the voter roll and fingerprint both the signature and the ballot. This ballot would be numbered and trackable. Punch-card ballots are too easily tampered with and would not be allowed. Neither would I allow the paperless electronic voting machines being advocated around the U.S. It is too easy for votes to disappear when there is nothing physical to count again if needed. I would only allow optically scanned ballots that the voter completes by filling in the appropriate circle with a pen. These ballots can be read quickly by counting machines, and recounted easily. This system combines the best parts of computer ballot tabulation and the physical paper trail necessary to ensure the honesty of elections.

Finally, I would punish harshly anyone who falsely registers or tampers with ballots. Since these people have tampered with the voting process, one just punishment would be permanent disenfranchisement. It is only fitting, after all.

Sadly, I am realistic enough to know that these steps will never be taken in my lifetime. But I can dream.

So get out there and vote today. If you are registered, and if you do it honestly. If not, let me sincerely invite you to go directly to hell, do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

Addendum (11/2/2004): Drudge is reporting some exit poll results before the polls officially close with a caution that these results are very unreliable. If the results are unreliable, and have been historically unreliable, WHY THE #@$% ARE YOU REPORTING THEM! Grrr! If I could, I would ban all reporting of exit poll results until after the polls actually close. You can scream about a violation of your freedom of speech, but I believe that right is trumped by the responsibility of not allowing the election to be affected in mid-polling.

Addendum (11/3/2004): Here I am, awake at 5 am, and looking over election results for the past hour. I am so very glad that President Bush pulled such large numbers to make it harder to repeat the prolonged vote haggling we got in 2000 in Florida. This year it looks like Ohio is the contested state, but with President Bush significantly in the lead, Ohio’s 20 electoral votes should be given to President Bush and seal the election. The only possible snag are the provisional ballots, and while there are currently more than the vote difference between President Bush and Senator Kerry, they won’t matter. Captain Ed points out that Ohio will only swing to Senator Kerry if 100% of the provisional ballots are accepted and if 100% of the accepted ballots go to Senator Kerry. And neither will happen. I hear the fat lady singing, Senator, don’t you?

Addendum (11/3/2004): Apparently Senator Kerry heard her and conceded. This shows some class on his part more than Al Gore. What else can I say but “Four more years!”

Addendum (11/9/2004): There are people who are so sorry that President Bush won. And others who are not sorry. I submitted the following image to the sad-sack crowd, but I doubt it will ever be posted.

Yarr harr harr harr!