First, let’s get something straight. The thousands of brilliant Floridians who found themselves incapable of following an arrow from a name to a dot four years ago were not disenfranchised. Disenfranchisement requires that one actually be denied the right to vote. Not having the skills of a kindergartner to read directions and complete a task doesn’t count. No really, Al, it doesn’t. Sorry.

But alas, lest you think all of the protests and cries for justice are without merit, I am here to assure you that disenfranchisement does indeed occur. For I, a citizen in good standing (and without felony convictions), have been denied the right to vote. My lovely wife, who’s far more politically harmless than her husband, and I have been disenfranchised.

Dis. En. Fran. Chised.

The story goes like this:

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Someone page me when the debates begin.

I know a little about debate. I’ll spare you my high school resume, but I devoted enough time and energy to competitive debate over a period of five years to fit safely into the category of debate geek. Perhaps only for that reason, I’ve tried to tune into the campaign forays into debate. I watched the first two on TV, and I listened to most of the third tonight as we drove to our new home in Bryan. In the opinion of this recovering debate geek, these little one-act plays we’re being subjected to are just slightly north of utterly pointless and silly. I mean, seriously, how many more times do we need to hear Bush use the phrase, “wrong war, wrong time, wrong place?” We get it. How much more convincing do we need that Kerry knows how to say “rush to war” and “I have a plan to win the peace.” Thanks guys, but we heard you the first seventy-three times. We know what you think of each other, and we know what you think of yourselves.

What we don’t know is whether either of you actually has the ability to think beyond the sixteen phrases you’ve been trained to repeat like my son’s talking Elmo by Karl Rove and whatever Democratic marionette is pulling JK’s strings. What we don’t know is whether either of you has the sa — er, excuse me — fortitude to actually hold up under any kind of unrehearsed or detailed challenge. Every time I hear the debate moderator say, “The candidates may not ask one another questions” I nearly choke. Come on guys! There are ninth graders going at it for hours at a time in debate tournaments every Saturday with more courage and resolve than the two of you can pool together for ninety minutes. I hope they typed those thirty pages of Rules to Prevent Any Semblance of Actual Debate on pink paper and tied a pretty little bow around them. Sheesh.

I suggest you make an effort to visit a local high school debate tournament at some point in the near future. Just be warned – if you’ve somehow found a way to convince yourself that something real or important is going on in these little joint regurgitations, those high school kids will ruin your day. You might not even be able to tune in to the next round of clashless, mind-numbing tongue-wagging on Wednesday night. And for that, you can thank me (and the ninth graders) later.

EDIT: And don’t even get me started on this whole gaggle of spinsters that flood the airwaves the instant the debates end. Apparently Americans are too dumb to evaluate what they witnessed for 90 minutes, so they need these yapping noggins to tell us what happened. SHUT UP! These people get paid to lie, or at least to say exactly what they’re supposed to say with absolutely no respect to reality. The other night Joe Lockhart looked into the camera and told three consecutive lies as he was getting hammered by Chris Matthews. He knew he was lying. Matthews knew he was lying. I knew he was lying. And what was he lying about? His campaign’s position on George W. Bush’s honesty. How many showers do these guys have to take every night just to get enough of the “dirty” off of themselves to sleep? Oh wait, do vampires sleep? For what it’s worth, I could say the same about the Republican spin-masters, although every time I hear Karen Hughes talk I wonder why she’s not the one on the ticket.

I’ve decided I’m fully in favor of getting Nader into the debates from now on. At least when Perot wormed his way onto the stage, something interesting was happening.

Okay, I think I’ve sufficiently decompressed from a full evening of moving.

Now hear this…

I’ve been tracking the hits on the site a little lately, and the numbers are a little surprising. Turns out it’s not just me and three other people who read this stuff. The thing is, I don’t know who you are if you don’t ever comment. The site is getting between 30-100 times as many hits each day as there are comments. I’m curious who’s here. I know a few of the regulars, especially the ones that post or email me, but there appears to be a silent throng of millions who remain in the shadows. Well, maybe not millions, but at least a silent throng of 107 today. I’m not sure I know that many people, so naturally I wonder who’s showing up here. For instance, someone found me by punching “Thad Amy Aiden” into google. Who are you?

Here’s my request: If you read, comment once in a while, at least to just let us know who you are and that you visited. If you have some moral objection to commenting online, just send me an email. You don’t have to do it every time; I just want to know you’re out there.