Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Bikes and Ballots

November 7, 2007, 6:30 a.m.

Bikes, Ballots and the "Wonderful One-Hoss Shay"

Fortunately, it was at the end of a bicycle ride, coming into the gravel driveway at our home, that my bicycle simply disintegrated the other evening. No telling how old that bike was -- or how old I would have lived to be had it chosen to leave me in traffic on a busy road instead of on my front lawn.

Though the bike was much younger than Oliver Wendell Holmes' 100-year-old "Wonderful One-Hoss Shay" it did remind me of the opening and closing lines of his poem:

Have you heard of the wonderful one-hoss shay,
That was built in such a logical way
It ran a hundred years to a day,
. . .
[then] went to pieces all at once,
All at once, and nothing first,
Just as bubbles when they burst.
For starters, the bicycle had been assembled, like Johnny Cash's "One Piece at a Time" automobile ("I got it one piece at a time/And it didn't cost me a dime"), with parts from prior bikes.

After all, I was brought up at a time when "built-in obsolescence" had not yet been invented and "conspicuous consumption" would have produced more social ostracism than admiration and envy -- even if anyone could have afforded it. Our approach to material things was governed by a little rhyme, said to have originated in New England, though it may have been brought over from old England, a rhyme that was an oft-quoted bit of advice during the Great Depression, and on the home front during the World War II that followed:

Use it up
Wear it out
Make it do
Or do without
Why do I tell this story? Because I don't want to risk someone interpreting what I'm about to say as carrying an overlay of "Now I never would have made a mistake like that." With all my emphasis on logic, analysis and John Carver's approach to board governance, I make all kinds of mistakes -- like continuing to ride an old bicycle long beyond the years when it's still safe -- and might well have been a party to the County Auditor's Office miscount last night had I been in charge.

Having said that . . .

How the hell do you overlook a 2000 vote margin on the "Take a drinking break at 10:00 p.m." ordinance vote? If the vote count on any community's controversial referendum would warrant a check and a double-check before reporting results it would have been this one.

The evening, and the reports of the vote, kind of reminded me of an election some 60 years ago:

"According to the Texas Election Bureau, an unofficial election agency run by Texas newspapers, Stevenson led at midnight by 2,119 votes out of 939,468 counted. 'Well, it looks like we've lost,' Lady Bird told Dorothy Nichols on the phone."

Or so it seemed. The votes kept coming in and the results went back and forth; victory was now declared for Stevenson, now for Johnson, now for Stevenson. After most of the tallies, the governor held a slight advantage. Then, six days after the election, a funny thing happened: 203 votes turned up in Box 13 from the pint-sized town of Alice, Texas. Even funnier: 202 of those votes were for Lyndon Johnson.
Johnson was ultimately declared the winner of that election -- by 89 votes. [There are many sources for this bit of history; this was just the first on Google's list, AskGleves.]

It only took a switch of 89 votes to make these election results an italicized and bold footnote to American history.

What are we to make of a late-hour, 2000-vote swing in the vote count on behalf of the Iowa City's City-Council-backed, illegal-drug dispensing, election-manipulating, irresponsible and greedy bar owners?

[How can I call the bar owners "illegal drug dealers"? Because . . .

1. Alcohol is our nation's number one hard drug by any and all measures: numbers of people involved and affected (alcoholics, alcohol abusers, binge drinkers; plus family, friends and co-workers), percentage of crimes involving alcohol and numbers of persons in prison with alcohol problems, economic impact from absenteeism to property damage, and permanence of adverse health effects -- among others.

2. Alcohol cannot legally be sold or consumed (outside of a family home) by those under the age of 21.

3. Bar owners are operating establishments the sole purpose of which is to profit from the sale and consumption of alcohol, knowing that a significant proportion of the consumption of alcohol from which they are profiting is being done by those who are doing so illegally.

4. Therefore, I contend, they are illegal drug dealers -- with a political and economic power, not unlike the MedellĂ­n Drug Cartel in Colombia, to control our City Council and University.]
Kind of reminds me of CitiGroup's failing to notice an $11 billion loss as it was occurring. How do those things happen? Wouldn't somebody notice after the first billion was missing from the petty cash drawer? [See, e.g., Eric Dash, "For Citigroup’s New Head, Focus Is Subprime Tangle," New York Times, November 7, 2007.]

This is one election fiasco that's going to have to be explained in excruciating detail.

We know of the multi-hundred-thousand-dollar benefit the defeat of the ordinance will bring to the bar owners. For the benefits it will bring to the UI's binge-drinking students -- helped along by the silence on this ballot proposition from their self-censored, see-no-evil-hear-no-evil-speak-no-evil, pro-all-business administrators and faculty -- see this morning's video offered by State29, "Cheers!" November 7, 2007.



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1 comment:

John Neff said...

That was in Duval County Texas where the dead vote regularly. I drove past the Duval County Courthouse several years ago and it looked like it was ready to collapse.

There is a wonderful photo of the discovery of ballot box 13 in a Johnson biography showing all of the public servants. In fact it was a beer keg that had been converted into a ballot box. If we ever go back to paper ballots that would also work in Johnson County.