04 November 2014

One Week Early

It's time for my annual lament that we're voting one week early, or celebrating Veteran's-Day-That-Used-To-Be-Armistice-Day one week late. Given that all of the (recorded) US veterans of the first round of the Second Thirty Years' War are now dead, there would be little reason to not move it forward to Election Day... except "tradition," which is usually sufficient to block anything that otherwise makes sense.

In any event, if you're eligible and haven't voted yet, get your butt to your designated polling place (or turn in your pre-done ballot, if that's how it's done where you live). Not only is that how you actually express appreciation for veterans' service — a whole week in advance! — but that's also the best way to simultaneously limit and illuminate outsider corruption of local elections. The more voters who have to be "bought" to win an election, the more likely a wide-ranging "conspiracy" must be put in place to do so... and those are rather difficult to keep quiet, at least in the long run.

Here in Kaliforniya, most of the action concerns ballot initiatives, not political offices. The state adopted a "top-two" ballot system not long ago — the top two vote-getters in the primary are on the final ballot, without regard to party affiliation — so we have dubious amusement like the race for Congress in the 17th (part of Silicon Valley) between a Democrat and a Democrat who appear to despise each other just as much as a Democrat and a Republican would despise each other while never coming even close to presenting a coherent policy position. But extreme outside influence is sure as hell there on the ballot initiatives. General rule of thumb: If you have a conscience of any kind at all, and you see that a major sponsor of one position on a ballot initiative is an insurance company/exchange/trade association... vote the other way. If it turns out that insurance companies are on both sides and campaigning vigorously, get ready to file a lawsuit either way, because there will be corrupt and inappropriate influence.

There's one kind of ballot initiative out there, though, that makes me want to strangle some ignorant bastard. Many cities/counties have "let's tax sugary soft drinks!" under consideration; both San Francisco and the People's Republic of Berkeley have such initiatives this year. I resent being poisoned. No matter what the potential diabetes-and-related illnesses associated with (not caused by) sugary soft drinks, the alternative is worse for some of us. Aspartame, for example, is taught in basic biochemistry as a prototypical example of the silent impact of a genetic disorder (phenylketonuria, better known as PKU), and in more-advanced courses as a precursor to migraine/cluster headaches and other not-as-rare-as-the-industry-would-have-you-believe neurocirculatory disorders. The more "modern" artificial sweeteners aren't any better, whether synthetic or "natural." (We'll leave aside for the moment that most of the dental problems result from the acidity, not the sugars.) Indeed, my own preference is for unsweetened or whisper-of-sugar-with-no-corn-syrup iced tea, or perhaps water with a twist of lemon or lime (no orange, though)... but I can't get that at any chain restaurant or any restaurant that uses soda-distributor-provided multidispensers. Indeed, most of them run the "plain water" through the same spout as the most-highly-sweetened-with-aspartame "lemonade"-like abomination, meaning that I run a substantial risk of a migraine whenever I don't order a highly-sugared soft drink at McZorgle's. The real solution here is to stop oversweetening drinks, not to stop putting sugar in them.