Happy Halloween!

The trend in infant costumes seems to be making our children into FOOD for Halloween. But our old friend from grad school, Abram, took it one step further with his kids -- he let the older one be the COOK.

This may be the best picture I've ever seen! :-)

Thanks to Abram for letting me share this!

4 More Days

As part of my countdown to Election Day, I present Nas and Tupac Shakur with "Black President."

I have a couple of ideas for the rest of the run, but I'm definitely open to suggestions--all genres and musical styles considered. Leave your suggestions in the comments.

Happy Halloween!

David Storck, you're the next contestant on who can make the Republicans look more racist today, and it looks like you might be the big winner.

The head of the Hillsborough GOP, David Storck, distributed an email from a Republican Party volunteer saying the voters are a threat.

That's because, as the volunteer says in the email, he sees "car loads of black Obama supporters coming from the inner city to cast their votes for Obama."

It goes on to say, "This is their chance to get a black president and they seem to care little the he is at minimum a socialist and probably Marxist in his core beliefs." The Republican volunteer says that is because, "After all he is black- no experience or accomplishments but he is black."
But the best part is his not-quite-an-apology and explanation for the email.
Storck says he didn't pay enough attention to the email before he sent it out. "Now I know that was a mistake. I never should have done it. I do not agree with the statement or anything else. That's not what we're all about."
What part of that email could be put down to not paying enough attention before he sent it out? Would it be the suggestion that it's racist for black voters to support a black candidate? Or the suggestion that black voters are a threat because they're from the inner city?

You would think that by this point, people would have learned that you shouldn't put anything in an email that you're afraid would become public, nor should you pass along an email without reading it carefully, because if you're in the public spotlight, there's a good chance someone will use it to embarrass you. And you just might deserve it.

Here's the Random Ten--put the iTunes on party shuffle and post the next ten songs to pop up. No cheating to make yourself look cooler--or less cool, if that's your thing. Just don't tell us that you relate to the speaker in MC Frontalot's "Yellow Laser Beam." That's way too much information. Here we go.
1. Mista Mista--The Fugees
2. Tell Somebody (Repeal the Patriot Act Now)--Rickie Lee Jones
3. All Day Sucker--Stevie Wonder
4. Violeta--Ozomatli
5. Soul Train--Snooks Eaglin
6. More More More--Andrea True Connection (Amy's Favorite Song Evar!!)
7. Everybody's Gonna Be Happy--The Kinks
8. Lover's Lane--Squirrel Nut Zippers
9. Don't Let Me Down--The Beatles
10. Friar's Point--Susan Tedeschi
So what are you listening to this fine day?

Hat tip to anonymous in comments

Remember this?

Nearly four years ago, cheesy as this sounds, I put on my black hoodie, walked two blocks up the hill to the school that hosted out polling place, and I cast my vote for John Kerry. I headed down to Stanford where I was part of the most pensive workshop in history, and I listened with bated breath, along with the people who drove me home, to the election returns as John Kerry fell short.

Amy and I cast our votes a week and a half ago, standing in line for four hours to get it done. No hoodie this time--it was a bit warm for that--but I felt even more urgency this time around, as though this was a vote I'd been waiting a long time to cast. Eight years, in fact.

I'll try to find more songs between now and the election--all suggestions are welcome.

According to a transcript of an interview with Larry King, John McCain thinks racism won't be a factor in this presidential election. I'm not sold, but I hope he's right. It's interesting how he framed this, however:

Referring to people who might vote against Democrat Barack Obama because he is black, McCain added: "It would be a tiny, tiny, minority. Because people are hurting too much now. I mean, they're worried about staying in their homes, keeping their jobs."
McCain realizes that Obama's cleaning his clock on the economy, right? I mean, it's obvious from other parts of the interview that McCain wants to get the storyline back onto foreign policy in these final days because he thinks that's stronger ground for him, and to be fair, the perception that voters think he's better on that is probably accurate. (To be clear, I'm not saying he's better--just that a slim majority of voters think that.)

He backs off the charge of socialism--not much, mind you, saying that while he doesn't think Obama is a socialist, he thinks Obama is "in the far left of American politics." Please--you couldn't keep me from dancing in public if Obama was in the far left of American politics. Maybe McCain watched Stephen Colbert a couple of nights ago and decided the socialist line really was stupid.

But back to the first point I was making. Obama has done a couple of things really well in this election cycle. He's tied McCain to Bush's economic policies (with a little help from McCain himself) and he's put an earnings number on the middle class--$250,000 a year for a family. That last part can't be emphasized enough, I think, because it encompasses most Americans, and one of the most undertold stories about the Bush economy has been how the wealthy have made out like bandits, not so much at the expense of the working class--we didn't have much more to sacrifice anyway--but at the expense of the upper-middle class, those people making in the low six-figures. Obama has basically told those people "you might think you're rich, but you're really middle class, and because of that, I'm going to cut you a break."

Now, not everyone in that tax bracket will accept his formulation--some of those people want to think of themselves as rich--but we fetishize the middle class to such an extreme in this country that a lot of those people at the upper range of that income bracket love thinking of themselves as, pardon the phrase, Joe WineBox and Jane SixPack. But a number of the are accepting that place as part of the middle class and are identifying, not with the super-wealthy, but with the working poor. Putting the number out there took the term "middle class" from the abstract to the concrete, and while most politicians hate being nailed down to specifics, this is a case where the specific works. Abstracts are great for bringing people together, but there's a point in an election where you have to draw contrasts, and Obama's done it with that number--$250K a year. Make less than that, and you're one of us, and that, more than anything else, may be what drives Obama to victory next Tuesday.

Another article on keeping politics out of the classroom -- with a twist! This time the authors acknowledge that we've abandoned teaching civics and that college is a place for the free exchange of ideas -- including political ones.

Two things they don't mention:

1. It is easier to manipulate students if you don't tell them your politics, if you choose your words carefully so as to make your views inscrutable. If, on the other hand, you make your politics clear, students opposed to your point of view will be better able to "resist" you. So this whole "keeping politics out of the classroom" thing is counter-productive to its declared goals on its face.

2. As I've mentioned before in response to Stanley Fish, it's very easy to make a claim about "keeping politics out of the classroom" if you are not, by your very presence in the classroom, making a political statement. If you are a woman with advanced degrees teaching college students, that says something about how you view the sexes. If your last time is "Islam" or "Hussain" you make a political statement whether you do or do not wear a headscarf. If you are not a professor nor a doctor (like me), your students will have to refer to you as "Miss" or "Ms" or "Mrs" -- choices politically fraught. And that's just women. How about minorities? What assumptions will your students make about your attitudes towards Israel if your last name is Goldberg or, well, Israel? What assumptions will they make if you are Cuban? Then there are the texts you choose: if you actually make an effort to represent minorities and women, if you include texts that reference evolution or abortion, or texts that reference global warming/weirding, you are making a political statement. If you work at a public university whose mission is to educate working-class and/or commuter students, political statement. If you are American and believe in democracy, you are making a political statement. In short: everything is political.

By labeling some things "political" and making them "off limits" for discussion, we narrow our students' understanding of their world. What is the value of an opinion that cannot survive the mere awareness of an alternate point of view? What is the value of an opinion that cannot answer a well-made counter-argument? Students may not be able to debate their views so convincingly that they "win" arguments against their teachers, but what marvelous practice, and how else would they ever learn to do so? 

Politics should not be taboo -- that only indoctrinates people into apathy, cynicism, and helplessness. Democracy can survive debate, even divisive debate, but it cannot survive silence.


For the past semester, I've been teaching Freshmen writing (composition). I hadn't taught it in a while (2 years), but I was especially interested in teaching a "frosh comp" this semester because Brian's daughter started college this year, and I was curious to see what the kids her age looked like, thought like.

I have learned several things about them: I have learned that no one has taught them history; even the "history" that they've lived through (the events of the last 5-10 years) is more or less mysterious to them. I have learned that they violently reject being made to read slowly and carefully and that they are inclined to read entire essays without looking up a single word, or re-reading even once (or reading the essay all the way to the end once) even though failure to do so means they don't understand the essay and do abysmally when they're asked to respond in writing. This blows me away because it means they are comfortable living in a mental landscape of unfinished thoughts and half-considered views, of partial understanding based on assumptions -- that in the end are not correct, but they'll never know that -- a mental landscape of ignorance masquerading as assumption: they are very much inclined to see a text as what they assume it will be (the actual ideas presented, be damned), and they always assume it will be something very boring. I mean, I might not mind them just "making stuff up" so much if what they made up were interesting and original. But it is a sad world they live in, where ideas are shallow, indistinct, and unoriginal. 

Very much related: I have learned that essentially none of my students came into my classes able to identify the subjects and main verbs of their own sentences. (When I quizzed them on this, and yes, I gave them a week of warning, 3 students got it right out of two classes -- which is about chance. Later tests showed the students who got it right the first time couldn't come through consistently.) My students were labeling anything "subject": prepositions, random words from subordinate clauses, the verb, anything. This is a basic bit of linguistic understanding it is necessary they have, frankly, just so that they may be taught more things. It is difficult to impossible for me to explain to them the errors and awkwardness they need to avoid in their writing if they don't understand what I mean when I say "subject" and "verb" (let alone, "preposition" or "clause"). Nor can they understand ideas expressed in writing that rises above elementary structures, writing with any nuance. In this sense, their educations have been retarded since elementary school.

One of the texts they were assigned this semester (as part of a campus-wide reading project) was Barbara Ehrenreich's Nickel and Dimed -- a book written at an 8th grade reading level. A minority of students acknowledged that it was an "easy read," but a majority found it difficult. And trust me, this book is about as basic a read as they come. But they found it difficult.

The main thing I've learned about this group of young adults, though, is that I like them. They are an interesting group of people. They are both hopeful beyond reason and cynical beyond comfort. They have been done wrong by the only education system they'll ever get, but they themselves are not deficient. And they are not, as a group, very timid: they are outspoken, in fact, often just plain LOUD, and they are very open to ideas, once they understand them. (One would guess that in a world as devoid of ideas as theirs is, ideas that break the understanding barrier would hold particular power -- word to your propagandist.) Yet the truth remains that the average young adults entering the world today (I'm sure your Harvard and Stanford freshman classes look different) are less prepared than ever: worse, their level of preparation fell off, in many cases, some 10 years ago or so -- and so they are not only under-prepared, they are bored into a state of stubborn torpor, a state so stubborn they must be shocked into noticing that they are now, in college, actually being challenged.

Of course, not all teachers will try to shock them. In fact, many teachers will shake their heads sadly and decide it is time to -- once again -- dumb down the material. Make that test take-home or open-book/open-note or online, or based only on material that was hand-fed to them in class. And the students will roll through half-comatose, barely registering the fact that they've taken the class at all. Or, we can do the harder, more important thing: we can make them realize that they live in a world of ever-expanding knowledge and wider-encompassing ideas, a world that is interconnected and full of talent and accomplishment, and that they can be a part of that, but that being a part of it means changing the way you think, and the way you think about the world. 

I believe this is a natural stage in the evolution of a society that has passed its peak: the hard-workers who got us somewhere are dead or dying. Their children, who benefitted from a strong education and a sense of entitlement did very well. Their children's children, whose educations faltered but whose sense of entitlement grew to fill the space left behind, did a good job of lowering our standards and shifting our values, so that even politicians vying for the leadership of our nation were judged on whether or not you'd want to have a beer with them. And now there are these kids: the great grandkids of "the greatest generation." They have neither an education nor much of a sense of entitlement -- nor do they have a sense of the stakes they're gambling with. They're just bored. It's our job to wake them up.

They're going to out Barack Obama as just another old, out-of-touch white guy!

I'm on to you, you corporate media whores!!!111!1eleventy!1one!!

Screen grab from the Miami Herald.

This is just fun

You can get the lyrics here. It's like the Presidential Debates mixed with Cop Rock.

Via Shakesville.

Sam Bee rocks it again

From last night's Daily Show:

I think Samantha Bee has really come into her own as a voice on the Daily Show this election season, especially when it comes to the douchebaggy comments McCain continues to make about women's issues. I hope she continues to shine after the election.

As a writer who's never likely to make a lot of money off the work he does in his chosen form, I suppose I'm probably in the minority when it comes to the dustup between publishers and Google's book-scanning program, especially as it pertains to out-of-print books. There have been a number of lawsuits, but apparently Google and the publishers have reached a settlement where everyone gets a chunk of the ad revenue this will generate.

But it was this part at the end of the article that jumped out at me:

“I think that it is a stupendous victory for rights holders of the written word, because it has established that we should and must maintain control over the intellectual property that writers create and that we invest in,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster, one of the parties to the suit brought on behalf of the Association of American Publishers.
It's all very mercenary, isn't it? As I understand, most writers who create the work have very little control over their creations once they've been published, so this lawsuit isn't about them. I dare say that most writers whose books are out of print would love to give Google (or some other entity) the opportunity to scan their work into a giant database so as to increase the chances that others will read it some day.

It's obvious to me that publishers jumped into this fray not because of any great love they had for the work they'd let go out of print, but because they saw a chance for a revenue stream that they wouldn't have to work for. I don't imagine the revenues at this point will be all that great, but it's free money coming from a source they'd written off long ago.

Maybe the next step in the evolution of the publishing industry should involve deals between writers and publishers where, if a title goes out of print, the rights revert to the author, who is then free to try to market it elsewhere, even online. Then the creations are back in the hands of the creators and some of this problem would be avoided.

Dear Florida Republicans,
I know times are tough. Your national candidate is behind, in part because he's tied at the neck to George W. Bush and in part because he chose a completely unqualified running-mate. Your governor decided that making the voting system work was more important than depressing the vote to help his party's candidate win in the state. And I think it's got to be tough recognizing that this state, which was supposed to be safe for McCain, is at the very least a toss-up.

But don't go getting paranoid on us.

Broward Republican Party leaders are warning the party faithful not to trust the Postal Service with their absentee ballots.

The outside of the absentee ballot envelopes are marked "Dem" or "Rep," depending on the party registration of the voter, and the party leaders said the Republican designation means something may happen to the ballots.

"This is a shame that we cannot trust the postal people," said Colleen Stolberg, the absentee ballot chairwoman for the Broward Republican Party. "These people are stealing votes from us."
I know everyone looks for someone to blame when things don't go their way, but the Postal Service is not stealing votes from you. If it makes you feel better to turn in the ballots in person, knock yourself out, but don't slander the most cost-effective and efficient government agency around in the meantime.


There was good news from Governor Charlie Crist today--he extended early voting hours in response to the long lines that we've experienced, and while Crist has done a lot of things that bother the hell out of me, this is a good one, because it says that he's at least willing to pay lip service to democracy.

Not so for one of his colleagues:

"He just blew Florida for John McCain," one plugged in Florida Republican just told me.
Call me a pie-eyed optimist, but I'd like to think that winning an election comes down to, at heart, doing a better job of convincing more people that you're right than your opponents do, not gaming the system to disenfranchise people by making it difficult for them to do the bare minimum required of citizenship--cast a vote. If I'm involved in a campaign and I lose, I can deal with that as long as I have the perception that the vote was reasonably fair, and that people had the chance to cast a vote. I don't know who that Republican was, but I've got precious little respect for him or her. I'm not naive--I know there are Democrats who will wrangle the system as much as they can to get out their vote and suppress the Republican vote, and I have just as little respect for them.


From here:

With an instructor watching, an 8-year-old boy at a gun fair aimed an Uzi at a pumpkin and pulled the trigger as his dad reached for a camera.

It was his first time shooting a fully automatic machine gun, and the recoil of the weapon was too much for him. He lost control and fatally shot himself in the head.

This is not starting well

I hope the day improves, because right now, I'm not in the mood for it. Car troubles, ironically enough, forced me to drive to campus instead of taking the train, and when I wasn't caught behind idiot drivers, I was being stopped by red lights, and once I got to campus, I was greeted with an installation by the local anti-choice, pro-forced birth douchenozzles right near the building my office is in, complete with obnoxious photos and comparisons of abortion to the killing fields in Cambodia and the Holocaust. If I manage to make it through the day without losing it all over one of those morons, I'll consider it a success.˙

We've had enough of your crap.

This is pretty much how every Democrat ought to respond to Fox News--with snark and sarcasm and the open contempt that they deserve. My favorite bit was when the announcer said "We don't put up with that [sarcasm] here." Hey, you don't have to invite spokespeople from the Obama campaign onto your channel. Of course, your viewers might wonder why they're getting such a limited perspective, but I figure that by this point, they're pretty used to that.

Episode Three of THE CHUPACABRA HUNTER is live and ready for your viewing pleasure. If you're not caught up with the series, go to the chupa website for episodes one and two. 

Now is definitely the time to catch up, Incertus readers, because none other than Brian (incertus) himself makes an impassioned and inspired appearance in episode four, which will go live on Halloween night, this Friday.

Enjoy, and, Good Hunting!

N-Bomb at a Palin rally

Here's the video, this diary at Daily Kos. It's pretty clear what the person off camera says.

Some people have been claiming that Palin, because she hesitates for a split second after the yell and stumbles over her next sentence or so, heard this and decided to ignore it. That's possible, I guess, but I don't see any body language that suggests that she definitively understood what the person said. There was no head movement toward the sound, no upward glance--nothing. Just a hitch in her voice, and frankly, it's not like she'd been particularly smooth leading up to that moment, and what followed was about as disjointed a piece of rhetoric as we've come to expect from Governor Palin. I tend to follow the NFL's instant replay rules on this sort of thing--I give the benefit of the doubt unless there's definitive evidence contradicting this, and based on this footage, I don't think there's definitive evidence that Palin 1) heard the n-bomb and 2) decided to pretend like it didn't happen.

That said, did you notice who else didn't react? There was no indication--no rumble from the crowd, for example--that the people next to the person who yelled the n-bomb had much of an objection to it. Now I can understand that situation--maybe you're uncomfortable about confronting strangers about racism. But there was no one in that crowd who objected loudly enough to be picked up by the microphones. Try calling Governor Palin a c*** at an Obama rally and see how quickly someone in the crowd will shout you down, assuming the speaker doesn't hear it and call you out for it. But that didn't happen here, and that is the saddest part of this story.

The big news--though I suspect it's less of a big deal than the headline akes it out to be--is the disruption of a plot by some Neo-Nazis to rob a gun store and then go on a killing spree at a high school populated largely by African-American students, and then somehow manage to get within shooting range of Barack Obama and kill him as well. That sounds more like the Liberty City Seven kind of planning than anything else, but I expect we'll see more of this in the coming years, not to mention a resurgence of n-bombs by angry white people who can't deal with a black president.

Some California activists took one of the odious web ads being run by the Yes on 8 people and replaced the words "same-sex" with "interracial" in order to show the similarities between the two situations, and it's really a effective way to do it.

Via Pam at Pandagon

I saw this link when I went over to RedState in search of something to mock this morning (because I'm in that kind of mood today). It's an interesting piece because it discusses the sexism that Sarah Palin has faced since she accepted the Republican VP nomination, but it also has a couple of problems. It starts out strong:

I realized this when I saw a 20-something male student who attends a class in the community college where I teach, wearing a T-shirt that read, "Sarah Palin is a C-." He wore it in public, in broad daylight, and without shame or even consciousness of what he was doing.

I took the time to advise him of the "error of his ways" and informed him of the consequences if he wore it to my class.
I would do the same, if I saw that. I think a shirt like that contributes to a hostile learning environment and I'm within my rights to remove a disruptive student. I consider that disruptive.

Helen McCaffrey also discusses a number of other instances where, sadly, people who call themselves progressive have engaged in sexist and misogynist attacks not only against Sarah Palin but also against Hillary Clinton, and they're horrible stories to read. They shame me and my fellow progressives. But this:
I thought Americans would be proud of her nomination, whether we agreed or disagreed with her on the issues. Was I in for a shock.

The sexism that I believed had been eradicated was lurking, like some creature from the black lagoon, just below the surface. Suddenly it erupted and in some unexpected places.
This is just disingenuous. If you're going to complain about the very real sexism that came out during the Democratic primaries, you can't honestly say that you thought it had been eradicated and expect us to take you seriously, especially when the example you're saying everyone ought to be proud of comes from the party that stands against pretty much everything feminism stands for.

I also have to admit that I don't get why I should be proud of the Republicans for nominating Sarah Palin, unless I'm giving them credit for simply nominating a woman. The recent stories about Palin going "rogue" and "acting like a diva" (note the sexism in that term) show that the Republican party and particularly the McCain campaign didn't nominate Palin for the depth of her policy knowledge, but rather so she would excite the base, and Robert Draper's piece on the McCain campaign says explicitly what many of us assumed--that Palin was chosen in part to appeal to disaffected Clinton primary voters. I guess I can see that the Republicans' willingness to use gender in a cynical way to try to get votes is at least an acknowledgment that women ought to be pandered to as much as any other group, but I'm not sure how much of a step forward that really is.

It's become a mantra for Sarah Palin, the most prominent Know-Nothing in a party filled with them, it seems: that the Republican party represents "real Americans," and her followers have taken up the call. Well, I feel like a real American. Let's see how I stack up by the standards they set.

"It means being normal, having a mom and pop making it in a business, paying their fair share of taxes," said Joyce Lipari, a real estate agent.
I have a mom and pop, and at various times in my teen years, they tried to make it in a business. They failed, but they tried, and they were scrupulous about paying their taxes.
"A real American is the average person who works 9 to 5 for an average paycheck, and John McCain understands that," said Jan Gardner, a nurse from Dolores, Colo.
I don't quite work a 9 to 5 because my schedule isn't that regular, but I do put in upwards of 40 hours a week once you factor in prep and grading, and I certainly make an average (or slightly lower) paycheck. That's two.
"I had to work for everything I got. That's what I was taught, and Sarah Palin understands that," he said.
That's what I was taught too, but I'm not stupid enough to think that I made it on my own. We're all interdependent--that's the very definition of a society. One more:
Rep. Robin Hayes, R-N.C., maintained last week that, "Liberals hate real Americans that work, and accomplish and achieve."
So does this mean I'm filled with self-loathing? Not to brag on myself, but I certainly work, and I have accomplished and achieved a fair amount, but there's no question that I'm liberal.

I know it's largely political posturing, and that in the long run it's meaningless, but I still get aggravated by this kind of crap. The irony is that the US was founded by people from many different nations (even if we're more than a little Britain-centric in the way we teach our history), but the Republicans seem to be doing all they can to reduce the number of groups in their circle in the name of reaching some bogus sense of reality. If we want to look at the two parties in terms of how they represent the US population, the Democrats are a lot closer to the way America actually looks than the Republicans are. Whites? Yep. People of color? Lots. Both men and women in positions of power? Not as good as we ought to be, but getting there. LGBT people out of the closet? Check. All religions and creeds, as well as nonbelievers? All ages and levels of education and income? Members of the military? Got 'em. You name it--if there's a demographic group out there, they've got some sort of representation in the Democratic party.

That's real America. And you know something? It wasn't so long ago that the Republican party was a bit closer in makeup to what we see with the Democrats, and it could be again if the Know-Nothings who currently inhabit the leadership positions in the party decide that there are more important things than being scared of brown people or gay people or atheists. But if it's more important to hold onto some ridiculous and inaccurate sense of purity for you and yours, then go ahead. Real America will be busy governing.


I read this:

In an interview on Thursday with Fox News, Ms. Palin named her favorite consignment shop as Out of the Closet in Anchorage, which, according to its Web site, offers “affordable high-end designer labels and brands not otherwise available in Anchorage,” like Prada, Armani and Gucci.
I felt confused. 

Does she come from an alternate reality where the gay thrift stores are straight discount-designer stores? Bizarro. Seriously.

October surprises will lose some of their oomph if this keeps up.

Election experts predict that a third of the electorate will already have voted by Nov. 4, up from 15 percent in 2000 and 20 percent in 2004, according to the Associated Press. In Florida, 40 percent of the electorate is expected to vote early.
You take that much of the electorate out of the decision making process before election day and the chances for a massive swing based on a last-minute story go down enormously. The October surprise only works if there's a chance to engineer a last-minute swing, after all, because usually it's a dishonest story that won't hold up to scrutiny, so the users of October surprises are caught in a quandary--how soon to release the story? Release it too soon and you're outed as a phony. Wait too long and you've already lost the game.

The rest of the piece is interesting as well--it points out that Democratic turnout on the Gulf Coast is high, which bodes well for Democrats across the state. 8 days left.

Because you've got all those fingers pointing back at you? Someone might want to remind Austin Hill of Townhall about that little saying, because I think he's in need of reminding.

As I pointed out in that column, many influential friends of mine from both political and business circles, and from both the East and West Coasts, were telling me that they feared “trouble in the streets” if Obama lost the election. That was in July. And now, as we begin the last full week before the election, I can’t help but think that we’re even closer to “trouble in the streets,” regardless of the election’s eventual outcome.
I'll give Hill this much credit--he never quite stoops to the level of saying "the darkies are going to riot," but he edges right up to that line. He expands his claim to liberals in general, as though every Obama supporter made their bones in Seattle at the WTO protests.

He's right about one thing--there has been a ratcheting up of hostilities in the last few weeks of this election season, but it hasn't come from the left (such as it exists in this country). You know where I'm going with this.

I'm not saying that there won't be protests if Obama loses and there are widespread accounts of voter fraud--there probably will be, and I'll be right in the middle of them--but let's not pretend like it's the liberals who are using explosive rhetoric in the last days of this election.

From the NY Times Style Section (Style Section!):

Tucker Carlson may have paved the way, becoming a host of “Crossfire” when barely over age 30. More-recent role models include Luke Russert, the 23-year-old son of the late Tim Russert, who was hired by NBC this summer to cover the youth vote, and Rachel Maddow, who is 35 and rose from nowhere to become a top-rated headliner on MSNBC.
It's fair to say--in a vacuum--that Maddow has come out of nowhere. She's only been in the radio and tv business for the last four years, after all. But she's been really good at it for those four years, and lots of people were suggesting loudly that she deserved a shot at MSNBC long before she got it.

But of the people on that list, doesn't Luke Russert deserve the "came out of nowhere" tag a bit more than Maddow? Would he be anywhere near the camera if he didn't have that last name? Come on--credit where it's due, okay? Maddow's holding onto most of Olbermann's audience, she's beating Larry King fairly often and she's inching up on Hannity and Colmes. If we could get MSNBC without having to pick up the Fox channels on our satellite system, she'd be on the DVR alongside Democracy Now! I guarantee. As it is, I watch her show the next morning online 3-4 days a week.

The rest of the article is depressing, frankly, because it shows just how degraded our national discourse is. Pundits who go to these schools are taught to score points, not argue honestly. It's all about smiling while you lie and twist the knife, and how to answer the question you wish you were asked instead of the one that came out of the news person's mouth.

Speaking of which, pundits could learn a bit from Joe Biden's reaction to this piece of craptacular interviewing.

It's the way Biden responds with complete incredulity, especially after the quote from Karl Marx (at about 2:25). When an interviewer asks a question as stupid as that one, the only response is to point out the ridiculousness of it. Mock them as they deserve.


These ads got old for me really quick, but this is a great revival of them. Via, well, everyone it seems.

Obama and Florida

The funny thing about this election cycle in Florida is that this should have been a safe state for John McCain. The only thing that was working in Obama's favor was the economy, but even that was having a limited effect on Democratic party popularity in this state, and the meltdown that pushed Obama to his current lead came after Obama had closed the gap in Florida.

This article, and it's a good one, suggests in the headline that McCain took his eye off of Florida and so now is in danger of losing it. That's true to a point, but there's a lot more to it than that. I think more than anything else, Florida is an example of what a combination of an aggressive strategy and a lot of money can do for you in a big state.

Some things to know about Florida. Obama shouldn't be winning here, based on the facts on the ground. We have a fairly popular governor who was on the short-list for the Vice-Presidential nomination; our legislature is strongly Republican, and while registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans, a lot of that advantage comes from the northern part of the state where they've simply failed to change their registrations to match their party preferences. North Florida, particularly the panhandle, is much like south Alabama.

The southern part of the state, while far more liberal, is also far older, and we've seen that group strongly favor McCain all through this election cycle, so there was a concern that while Obama would certainly win down here, he might not win by enough of a margin to offset his almost certain losses in the rest of the state. Factor in the heavy Clinton support from the primaries--support Clinton has done a lot to swing Obama's way in recent months--and it didn't look good for Obama's prospects.

And yet he either leads or is tied in practically every state poll out there right now.

Part of it no doubt has to do with the subject of the article I linked to above. Florida was supposed to be safe for McCain, and he may well still win it--I won't be surprised if he does, although I'm hopeful he won't. But Obama's strategy from the beginning was to spread the playing field, and shoot for states that McCain would then have to defend, and to do that, he needed money. McCain is in trouble right now because he doesn't have the money to both defend his states and attack Obama's swing states; Obama has the money to do both. That $115 million in September showed just how inadequate the current public financing system really is--by contrast, McCain had $84 million to spend between the end of his convention and the November election. His money is almost gone and Obama is still pulling it in. Even when you factor in the money the national committees are raising and coordinating with the campaigns, it's not close.

And here's the net result. When I turn on the tv, I see an Obama ad multiple times per hour. I've been getting, on the average, 3-4 phone calls a week from the campaign, though I suspect that will slow since I told them I've voted already.

It's not that McCain took his eye off Florida so much as Obama changed the calculus of the race. McCain was in a no-win situation here--he has to not only win this state, he has to be able to ignore it, and Obama had the money and the organization to take that possibility away from him. And so now, in the home stretch, McCain finds himself sweating states that he has to have to even have a chance to win instead of putting Obama on the defensive. He can still win, but it's a lot harder for him now, and it doesn't have anything to do with forgetting states. He had to forget them.

Here's what I mean--when was the last time Obama was in Michigan or Iowa? He's forgotten them in the sense that they no longer need attention, and so he's doing more in North Carolina and Colorado and Virginia and Montana. McCain needed Florida to be that way for him, and it isn't, because Obama spread the field on him, which is why he's in the lead now. And hopefully, Florida will be one of the many states to reward that strategy on November 4.

Ah, Florida

What would we be without election irregularities.

Three Hialeah voters say they had an unusual visitor at their homes last week: a man who called himself Juan, offering to help them fill out their absentee ballots and deliver them to the elections office.

The voters, all supporters of Democratic congressional candidate Raul Martinez, said they gave their ballots to the man after he told them he worked for Martinez. But the Martinez campaign said he doesn't work for them.

Juan "told me not to worry, that they normally collected all the ballots and waited until they had a stack big enough to hand-deliver to the elections department," said voter Jesus Hernandez, 73. "He said, 'Don't worry. This is not going to pass through the mail to get lost.'"
The story gets a lot more convoluted from there and apparently includes what's described as an "amateur sting operation," though there are no details given on that. There's some circumstantial evidence tying this to Lincoln Diaz-Balart's campaign, but it's shaky at best.

The real story here is that if you're voting absentee, don't give your ballot to anyone under any circumstances. Mail it in.

The endorsement

I'm not what you could call a fan of Will Ferrell. In fact, I've disliked him in almost everything I've ever seen him in. The one major exception has been his imitation of George W. Bush--he just nails that as far as I'm concerned, and his return to SNL to do Dubya passing the torch to Tina Fey's Sarah Palin was great.

More Political Circus

I last wrote about this exhibit a month ago, but I stopped by Thursday since it's scheduled to close on November 1 because some of my students had sent me photos that told me there was new stuff in the exhibit.

When the exhibit opened, Sarah Palin had been the Republican VP nominee for about three days, so the people putting together the exhibit hadn't had a chance to collect any stuff on her yet. It didn't take them long. Here are a couple of examples of Palin merchandise.

So this is pretty straightforward--Sarah Palin is the schoolteacher/mom figure out to administer some badly needed discipline to a naughty country. It's dismissive of her position as the governor of a state because it reduces her to a sexualized image of a fantasy woman who is going to take charge until you (as a man) give her the safe word and put her in her place like she wants you to.

This one is even more blatant.

This one hits lots of right-wing points. The silhouette is reminiscent of the kind found on truckers' mudflaps with the logo "gas, grass or ass--nobody rides for free," and the semi-automatic weapon appeals to various demographic groups: gun owners, hunters, survivalists. The one thing they all share is the desire for a fantasy woman who can fire a gun while looking sexy.

This last example was there the last time, but I didn't get a picture. This is a perfect example of how a message can fail really badly.

The whole point of a bumper sticker is get a message across quickly, because you don't really want someone riding your ass at 50 mph while trying to figure out exactly what you're trying to convey. Amy and I, along with a group of others at the exhibit, were puzzled by this one for the longest. (If you got it right away, please don't shame me.) It says "I love country music." Get it? Because Hillary Clinton is a cunt, obviously.

The interesting thing about all these images is that they seem to be directed at the same group of people--neanderthal males who either want to be dominated by a gun-wielding VPILF (yeah, that was on display as well) or who are terrified of Hillary Clinton and try to compensate by calling her names. The one piece that looked like it was aimed at the political left was a bumper sticker that used the McCain/Palin background and styling and said "Old Fart - Bimbo." That was the only Palin piece that treated her sexuality as a negative--every other piece was one that glorified her sexuality, as though she were going to be asking every eligible male in the country into the VP's office for a special personal interview.

It would be easy to ignore this stuff--Palin plays up her looks, winks and flirts with the audience, and generally stands against everything that most feminists hold dear. But she has to be defended anyway because, as Melissa McEwan says in her Palin Sexism Watch series, "We defend Sarah Palin against misogynist smears not because we endorse her or her politics, but because that's how feminism works."

Happy Anniversary!

Eight years ago, Amy and I got together as a couple for the first time, and my life has never been the same since. It's been better than I ever could have imagined, and I am a better person for having been with you. Thank you for eight wonderful years, my love, and I hope we have eight hundred more.

The Random Ten

I'm working on another post right now and I didn't want to do the combo thing I usually do. When you read it, you'll understand why. But I still wanted to do a random ten for this week. Nothing fancy, no corny jokes--just the next ten songs on my party shuffle. Here we go.

1. Don't Know--Stereo MCs
2. John Saw That Number--Neko Case
3. Mood Swing--Luscious Jackson
4. (Crazy For You But) Not That Crazy--The Magnetic Fields
5. The Perfect Fit--Dresden Dolls
6. Gun For the Whole Family-_Aesop Rock
7. A Serpents Love + Scene 2-Jimmy Slimwater's New Orleans Fu--Livesavas
8. Big Kneed Gal--Taj Mahal
9. Daughter--Pearl Jam
10. Ochimi--Spam Allstars
Leave yours in comments.

The question is this: Is an abortion clinic bomber a terrorist?

The answer is yes. No hesitating, no equivocating, no bullshitting. A person who sets a bomb in an abortion clinic is a terrorist because the bomber is using terror to try to change behavior.

But that's not your answer.

This is your answer.

"It would be unacceptable" is not good enough, Governor, and the fact that you don't get that is further proof that you are unfit to hold the position you are seeking.

Nathan Sproul at it again

When I wrote about the ACORN non-story on Monday, I mentioned a guy named Nathan Sproul, a Republican dirty tricks specialist who did some real voter registration fraud in Arizona in 2004 while being paid by the Bush campaign. Well guess who's back on on the radar in other countries, if not the US quite yet:

The campaign of John McCain has been found to have paid $175,000 to Nathan Sproul, whose firm Lincoln Strategy is accused of massive voter registration fraud, even as McCain tries to tar his opponent Barack Obama with irregularities at ACORN.

Documents show that Sproul's firm was hired for "voter registration" by McCain-Palin, the Republican National Committee and the California Republican Party. Sproul is under investigation for destroying Democrats' voter registration forms.

His firm also works to get Ralph Nader on ballots in order to divide the Democratic vote. A former employee testified that "fooling people was key to the job" and said he was told to hide his party affiliation, especially from the media.
Remember Rove's strategy 101--whatever you're guilty of, point your finger at your opponent and scream as loudly as possible, especially if there's nothing there. It'll get the reporters scurrying around and jumping at ghosts while you keep on doing what you've been doing. And if the reporters call you on it, then claim media bias. It's frighteningly effective at times.

Nixon may have bragged that his wife wore modest clothes in his famous "Checkers Speech," but times have changed. We all know Cindy McCain's clothes cost $300,000 for an outfit, but one assumes she's paying for that herself. Word is out that Republican donors have been footing the bill for Sarah Palin's outfits:

The Republicans spent about $150,000 on a clothing makeover for Ms. Palin and her family, according to financial disclosure forms. But looking at the before-and-after photos, it was not readily apparent what Ms. Palin got, exactly, from her shopping spree at Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

What the number $150,000 suggests is that Ms. Palin traded up to designer versions of the clothes she wore before stepping onto the national stage, a surprising implication for a candidate who emphasizes her appeal to working-class voters.

“My first reaction when I heard about this was, ‘Honey, I could have dressed you for a lot less than that,’ ” said Cindi Leive, the editor in chief of Glamour magazine, which asked readers on Wednesday to vote in an online poll whether the expenses were too high; 72 percent said they were. “In general, she looks terrific,” Ms. Leive said, “but if you asked me to figure out where the $150,000 went, I’m not sure I could tell you.”
Honey, she's a Republican. Why pay $15/hour to a city employee (or soldier) when you can outsource/privatize the job to a company owned by your friend or contributor, and force the taxpayer to spend 100 times as much for a shoddier product just to puff up their profits?

Republicans, wake up! They aren't just pilfering from Democrats: they're stealing your money too. And spending it all on sexy boots. Maybe even steaks and Cadillacs (does that wake you up a little? If not, hey, some of them are probably spending it on "young bucks" too). Make no mistake, Republican donors, you've paid for Sarah Palin's underpants. And I assure you, they are not the "respectable" cloth Republican underpants Pat Nixon would have approved of. They probably come from a company called "Naughty Monkey." Like her shoes.

Political Slogans

Hello from chilly Illinois! I'm sitting in my office, working on my thesis, gazing out the window, and coveting the birds swarming my neighbor's bird feeder (I've bought a feeder too, but only one cardinal has used it so far). I thought I'd take a moment to post about political slogans (information from the Facts on File Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins )

Even before "Tippecanoe and Tyler Too" swept William Henry Harrison and John Tyler into office, slogans played an important part in politics. Like all slogans, good political slogans are usually short and simple, with rhyme or rhythm, and say what the electorate feels but is unable to express. Yet some great slogans have had few or none of these qualities. For example, Herbert Hoover's backers used the negative scare slogan "Rum, Romanism and Rebellion" to defeat Al Smith in 1928. The Democrats' slogan against Grover Cleveland's opponent in 1884 was: "James G. Blaine, James G. Blaine / Continental liar from the State of Maine!" Humorous slogans have also been effective, such as the Democrats' gem: "In Hoover we trusted, now we are busted." There is no space here for a complete accounting of political slogans, but below are some famous ones that may or may not have succeeded:

"We Polked You in '44; We Shall Pierce You in '52!"--Franklin Pierce (1852)
"A Square Deal"--Theodore Roosevelt (1912)
"He Kept Us Out Of War"--Woodrow Wilson (1916)
"A Chicken in Every Pot"--Herbert Hoover (1928)
"A New Deal"--Franklin Roosevelt (1932)
"A Fair Deal"--Harry Truman (1948)
"I Like Ike"--Dwight Eisenhower (1956)
"The New Frontier"--John F. Kennedy (1960)
"All the Way with L.B.J"--Lyndon Johnson (1964)
"In Your Heart You Know He's Right--Barry Goldwater (1964)
"Nixon's the One"--Richard Nixon (1968)
"We Can't Stand Pat"--Pat Paulsen (1972)

Cross-posted at Word Play

RIP Rudy Ray Moore

He was perhaps best known as Dolemite to my generation, by which I mean white kids of the seventies. His obituary gives a lot more background. It will be interesting to see if the Dolemite remake actually happens, and how a contemporary director will mess up what is a great example of a well-meaning bad film.

Tales from the Polls

I waited in line two and a half hours today to cast my vote for Obama and against amendment two. Some interesting things happened to me during my wait, while voting, and afterwards. While waiting in line I met a young VERY soon to be mother. This election is the first time that she’s old enough to vote. She is due on October 26th and stood on her feet for two and a half hours to cast her vote just in case she went into labor and wouldn’t be able to make it to the polls by November 4th. All of us who drive by voting locations and keep on going when we see a long line need to take notes from this young mother who toughed it out because she knows how important this election is.

Also, the entire time I stood in line I didn’t see one person abandon ship. No one was complaining, or seemed frustrated. I thought about when I was little and my mother took me to vote with her. There was never anyone there and if there were even a few people in line there were complaints. It was amazing to see so many people taking time out of their day to make a decision about their future, and to see how many of them were making the right decision.

Once I got inside to vote, the woman sitting next to me looked at me and said “This is full of jazz. I’m not filling out all this paperwork. I’m voting Obama and going home.” It took me a minute to figure out what the hell “full of jazz” means. Even though I wish she would have stayed to vote against amendment two, I was glad that after this long campaign and long wait to vote she at least had it in her to fill in that bubble and shove it on through.

After voting, I went home and ordered delivery from the local Italian joint. I didn’t realize I was wearing my Obama shirt and when I opened the door to the delivery man he smiled. He told me he wasn’t eligible to vote yet because he was still only a resident and actually thanked me for voting for Obama. He said that he was thanking anyone he met who voted for Obama because he felt like it was a vote for him. I felt all warm and fuzzy inside and then stuffed my face.

Anyone who hasn’t voted yet should get on out and do it. Besides making your voice heard, you might find yourself with a great crowd that reminds you that community and civic responsibility are amazing things.

Where's Alice?

After watching this fantastic video I found myself wondering: Where’s my beloved Alice? I bit the bullet and went onto the Disney website to find out if she’s included in the “Princess Disney” line. She is not.

Why not? Is it because she’s not actually a princess? Nope. Neither is Mulan and she’s included in the princess line. Mulan is the daughter of a well-respected family and disguises herself as a man to take her ailing father’s place in battle. Wow! That sounds like a fantastic role-model, you might say. Sure, in the beginning, until she’s shamed for what she’s done and, you guessed it, lands herself a handsome warrior. Alice’s exclusion has nothing to do with her not being a princess.

Is the evil Queen she faces not quite evil enough, making her triump less impressive? No way, the Queen of Hearts is running around beheading people. It doesn’t get much more evil than that.

Is it because she goes on a journey of self-discovery and shows curiosity, bravery, resourcefulness, and intellect which is strictly reserved for the male Disney characters, and isn’t rescued by a brave and handsome prince who validates her sense of worth by choosing her, out of alllllllll the other beautiful maidens in the land, to cook his breakfast every morning? You betcha.

It seems that Disney has decided that Alice isn’t as marketable as the rest of the princesses. Curiosity, intellect, and resourcefulness aren’t presented enough to young girls in the form of toys, television shows, and movies. Instead, their given baby dolls and play kitchen sets. Disney is always re-releasing the old princess movies instead of focusing on creating new characters for new generations of young girls. These girls are told that the princess is what they should want to be. Who tells them this? Well, like Sarah Haskins says, all women want to be princesses, right? Just look at the adult Halloween costumes made available at places like Party City.

Aww, I can be the sweet Snow White, or the beautiful and tragic Cinderella . . . you know the one in the Disney movies, not the one in the German folk-tale that watches her stepsisters amputate their toes so they can fit into the slipper.

But, what if I don’t want to be a damsel in distress, swept away by a daring prince. Can’t I be Alice? Of course I can, at the cost of my own sense of decency.(Sorry about the link, wasn’t able to insert the actual picture).

Now, I’m not saying that it’s not okay for a woman to want to strip it down a bit for Halloween. It’s all part of the fun. And I’m not saying that there aren’t skimpy versions of some of the other Disney princess costumes either. I’m just saying that costumes like this one are the only ones available in mainstream stores that pride themselves on being Halloween Headquarters like Party City and Spencers. It seems that Alice’s refusal to be a helpless and romantic figure for young girls to idolize has some how made her into a sex toy. In fact, Alice costumes aren’t even available for girls and teens. Alice seems to disappear and resurface as some type of school-girl fantasy outfit for women to squeeze themselves into. There seems to be a statement here that women who are adventurous and intelligent, and don’t allow themselves to be feme covert are necessarily overly-sexual (if there’s even such a thing). I wonder at this. Some might argue that the barely-there costume is a statement of sexual liberation, which is quite in keeping with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. I disagree. I find the costume anything, but liberating. There’s a difference between being comfortable with your sexuality and seeking to express it, and being sucked in, pushed up, and strapped down. The costume is actually a prison. Women wanting to dress up like Alice are doomed to be put on display, or worse, to the dreaded arts and crafts store to figure out how to make a costume themselves.

My point – Ideally, Disney should scrap the princess line and start over, but that will never happen. Instead, they should come up with a new kind of heroine that encourages young girls, not damns them. As for Alice, perhaps if the same value was placed on her that is placed on the princesses we wouldn’t find her image resurfacing as masturbation fodder. Oh, that would be grand!


Here's a couple of great examples of how the right completely misses the point when it comes to identity politics. Ever since Barack Obama started winning primaries--especially since he started pulling 90+% of the African-American vote in polling--there's been a claim from the right that black voters voting for a black candidate is somehow racist. That claim took on yet another angle this weekend when Colin Powell endorsed Barack Obama for President--Rush Limbaugh couldn't spread the word fast enough.

And yet, Sarah Palin's latest argument for why women should vote for John McCain is based solely on her possession of a vagina.

"Our opponents think that they have the women's vote all locked up which is a little presumptuous since only our side has a woman on the ticket," Palin said to strong applause.
Now I will admit that there was a time when I thought that if a woman was on the ticket, all women would vote for her. And then I turned 16 right around the time Mondale/Ferraro went down to a huge defeat, so I learned.

There are no doubt some African-Americans who are voting for Barack Obama simply because he's black, just as there are no doubt some women motivated by Sarah Palin's gender to support her, but the majority of voters aren't motivated by such simple notions. If they were, we'd have had a woman as President already, since women outnumber men. If they were, African-American Republicans would be able to garner more than 15% of the black vote in statewide elections.

It's just funny to watch the Republican party flail around in this way. It's new to them, the idea that they might have to try to pay attention to anyone other than white men and submissive women, and so they're clumsy in their responses, and they do it badly. The nation is changing, and the Republican party will eventually figure out that they'll have to appeal to both women and people of color in order to stay viable, and that they'll probably have to move away from social issues to do that, and if they figure that out, the country will be a better place for it. And if they don't, they'll remain in the minority, stomping their feet and yelling that the world isn't fair.

It's not that I'm a particular fan of Tampa's baseball team--I couldn't have named a single starter for their team back on April 1 when I predicted a World Series appearance this year, after all--but I do like the name they took upon their inception. I don't know if a Devil Ray is actually bad ass, but it sure sounds like it is.

But you just know that some people are going to correlate the Devil Rays' success this year with their decision to drop the first half of that name. It won't be that the young pitching did better than expected, or that the lineup hit for more power, or that they were successfully aggressive on the base paths, or that Joe Maddon gave a young team a steadying hand down the stretch. No, for some people, the Devil Rays will have enjoyed their success (especially if they win the Series) because they dumped the word "devil" from their name.

Which is why I was nervous about clicking on this article. It started out just as I feared, complete with a quote from a former athlete turned minister:

"I told my wife before the season started, 'Whoever is in that organization made, to me, a very interesting decision,'" said Les Steckel, a former NFL coach and head of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, an evangelical ministry. "Six months later, look what happens."
Factor in that the story was written by the religion writer for the AP, and I just knew it was going to be more of the same.

I was wrong.

It's actually an entertaining piece that talks about the varying levels of success that pro and college teams with Devil in their names have enjoyed over the last couple of decades. My favorite example is the New Jersey Devils, whose jerseys have a red tail in the logo and who have won the Stanley Cup three times.

The last part of the article talks about superstitious fans and their odd behaviors, and let me tell you, there are books that could be written on that. Sports fans are the oddest bunch in the world when it comes to imagining that their behaviors, whether at the game or at home or in a sports bar can affect what's happening on the field. They make live-action gamers seem, well, cool.

Because I don't see how this solves the problem.

WASHINGTON -- Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the Guantánamo Bay prison for suspected terrorists can't be closed unless Congress acts to bar inmates from emigrating to the U.S., a step he said was impossible in an election year.
See, as I understand it, a big part of the reason why people who have been cleared of wrongdoing who are held in Guantanamo haven't been released is because there's nowhere to send them. Their countries either don't want them back, or worse, want them back so they can do bad things to them.

That's the problem with the Uighur situation that's been playing out lately. US law forbids sending prisoners back to countries where there's reason to believe they'd be tortured, no one else is willing to take them in, and the US refuses to allow them to immigrate even though there's a community ready to give them shelter and jobs and help them assimilate. So what exactly does Gates hope to accomplish with this sort of legislation? Does he hope to make an impossible situation even more impossible? I'll be the first to admit I don't always understand how people who in the Bush administration think, but this really has me baffled.

Early voting

Just a couple of images from the early voting yesterday. Our polling place was a library that also serves as an art gallery. The first photo was from when we'd been waiting about 45 minutes. That's the line we could see--it wrapped around a lot once we got inside those doors.

This is the warning sign as we neared the art gallery. I thought the note was a bit ironic considering what we were trying to do.

I don't want to presume, but I think it's safe to say that all of us here at Incertus are sending out good thoughts to Madelyn Payne Dunham, Barack Obama's grandmother, who is ill enough that Obama has canceled campaign events for the next two days so he can fly to Hawaii to be with her.

Edit: per Amy in the comments, I've taken down the post title. I was having trouble coming up with anything else, and I didn't understand the nature of Madelyn Payne Dunham's health when I wrote the post this morning, so I plan on leaving it this way for now.

Boys vs. Girls

Brian pointed out this commercial to me, and it just blows me away:

The commercial starts with black-and-white images from the 60's: rock and roll and surfing. Then it moves to a fit-looking man coming out of the waves with a surfboard, flashing a peace sign.

"Welcome to the 'summer of life,'" the narrator says, with an edgy "I'm narrating a rock and roll biography" tone of voice.

The product is a men's hair-color product that promises to leave some gray in your hair.

Can you imagine such a product for women?

Yet the appeal of this product (and its ad) is powerful: you aren't some faker trying to look 21, you're more real than that; you don't want to have no gray, you just want to have less gray; you're not some old fogey, you're a boomer, cool and strong and fun and proud. You've accepted that you're over 30 -- you just haven't accepted that you're over 60!

(One of the lines in the ad is "don't trust anyone over 90." Pardon me for conflating that with a newer expression, but, are they trying to say that 90 is the new 30?)

Men, of course, can look older and be regarded as "distinguished," while women who get older in apparent ways (including having gray hair) just seem, well, older.

Notice that the gent sporting his lessened-gray look in the ad is hanging with some fine blonde women: no gray on their heads! Not even just a little bit! (Although one of them is wearing a mini-skirt and swinging a tambourine, which dates her in a very different way...)

I know this is "ad reality," but the presence of those "trying to wrinkle up their faces in the close shots but no way they're over 35" women hanging on the "would have been 4 years old during the summer of love" hair-model's arm is just jarring, for a woman. After all, if that guy's supposed to be a boomer, the women are more likely to be his daughter than his girlfriend.

In short, this is an amazing little ad that should appeal to its target audience but will probably drop the jaw of every woman who sees it. The double-standard for attractiveness is just too stark, and, frankly, cruel (it always hurts to see others granted choices you are denied, or praised for choices you are punished for making) for members of the sex in whom youth is universally valued and age universally mocked and reviled.

We know that long lines on election day scare voters away. That's one of the reasons why early voting is such a good idea. We probably shouldn't even call it "early voting" vs. "election day voting" -- we should probably just open the polls for two weeks and let people vote when they can. It spreads the crowds out over longer periods, and it also makes it so, if you vote on the first day, for example, and have a problem, you can correct it and come back and vote. It increases turnout, makes the experience better, and leaves fewer people shafted by some kind of problem that's "too late now!" to fix.

The polls opened today in Florida, and Brian and I were among the first to go down to the Art Serve Library in Fort Lauderdale. Our experience was very similar to that featured in a Sun-Sentinel story about early voting:
David Hare thought he'd get a jump on Election Day by taking advantage of early voting this morning. He got on line outside the Art Serve library on Sunrise Boulevard in Fort Lauderdale at 10:30 a.m.

Nearly three hours later, he was still waiting.
We were about 30 minutes behind David, but our experience was the same. When we got there, we didn't realize it would take 4 hours to vote. The way the building is laid out and the way the line ran through it, it was impossible to tell how long the wait really was: I estimated 100 people when we got there. In hindsight it was probably 200 or 250. We'd waited half an hour before a poll worker posted a sign near us that said the wait from the door would be 3 hours. We decided to wait the additional 2.5 hours: I left Brian in line, went home, got ready for work. I came back with my laptop and did my class prep in line. I emailed my students and canceled my early office hours. But that additional 2.5 hours ticked past, and we still hadn't voted. Oh sure, we'd gotten a lot closer, but we weren't in the booth.

Some amazing things: people were choosing to wait. Many people on line had reasons why they needed to vote now. They were going on vacation or leaving town. And some of us (points at Brian whose driver's license gives his wrong address, wrong birthdate) had reason to want to try to vote now, in case of a problem, so there would be a second chance. But a lot of people on that line just wanted to vote and wanted to vote now. A lot of people on that line were just eager to get in there do it. And from the looks of it (and the sounds of it -- after a few hours in line with people, you get to know them a bit) everyone there was voting for Obama. 

Now here's the most important thing: Election Day in the United States is not a holiday. And people have jobs. They have to work. But as the Sun-Sentinel says in the same story:
Lines are expected to be even longer on Nov. 4, when 1 million people are expected to vote in Broward and Palm Beach counties.
As I got closer and closer to the actual voting booth, the clock ticked faster and faster. I reached the point at which, if I stayed, I could no longer make it to my class on time -- what would you do, after waiting close to 4 hours? I called work and emailed my students and let them know I was caught: class was canceled. 

If I had it to do over, I would have planned to vote on a day that I had completely off from teaching (and I would have brought my grading with me, because English teachers don't have days off from work): but I was totally unprepared for the length of time I would be required to wait. Election Day is going to be EVEN MORE CROWDED. But voting is important, especially this year. People, get out there and vote early. The lines will only get longer. You have every reason to do it and not a single reason to wait. This is Florida. If there will ever be a state where a single vote will decide an election, this is the place. Make your voice heard, early! 


When Barack Obama's campaign announced its mammoth $150 million haul for September, my first thought was "I wonder if Republicans will start calling for public financing of elections now?" A big reason for the right's dominance over the last thirty years has been their ability to outraise the left, and with that dominance seemingly diminished, I was wondering if they might seek to limit the left by bringing campaign finance reform back into play.

I wasn't alone, though Publius takes a somewhat different tack to the question than I did. Publius's point, and it's a good one, is that republics succeed when you're able to factionalize them to such an extent that no one faction is able to take complete power. The Republican party is a good example of that right now. The choice of Sarah Palin as running mate was clearly a pander to the social conservatives of the party, the faction that has dominated their electoral politics for a generation now. Fiscal and social moderates were let out in the cold, and may well provide Barack Obama with a landslide victory as opposed to a small one.

So it goes with financing elections--the more donors, the less influence any one donor has. Howard Dean made that point in 2004 (and I have a post in mind that will discuss Dean's part in the Democratic Party resurgence), that with such a large base of donors, no one owned him. The same is true with Obama to a point. There are still powerful people who can raise large sums who will have his ear, but their power is diffused somewhat by the online machine.

But here's where I differ from Publius. What can work on the large scale of presidential politics won't necessarily work on the smaller scale of Congressional or Senatorial politics. The biggest problem I see in the Congress is the incumbency advantage. Name recognition isn't the problem, either--it's something any challenger will have to overcome, and there's no structural way to do so. But how many times have we heard jokes about Congresspeople or Senators being corporate representatives? Joe Biden, who I have gained a lot of respect for in the last couple of months, is seen as a voice for the credit card industry because that industry has a lot of sway in his home state. John Dingell belongs to the auto industry. And the list can go on and on. In Congressional and Senate races, corporations have too much power, and public financing can do a lot to break that power.

Because Congressional districts are smaller, a corporate-backed bundler can have a lot more influence in terms of fundraising than any combination of grassroots organization can hope to compete with. Obama pulled off this amazing feat because he had a huge source to pull from--probably somewhere near 70 million people will vote for him this October and November (as I just did--four hours in line)--and while his campaign has gotten money from well over a million people, that's a small fraction of the people who will cast votes. If you're running in a district that represents 600,000 people, the same options aren't always open (unless you're running against a mouth-breather like Michelle Bachmann). A corporation who can suggest to its executives to dump a couple of grand apiece into a congressional election has a lot more sway in a smaller universe.

So while Madison's point might hold true for national elections, and even state ones where the state is populous enough, it doesn't work in smaller cases, and I think that is enough reason to continue to push for public financing of elections.

It's taken them about a week, but the corporate media is finally getting up to speed on the ACORN non-story. CNN had some reporting on it yesterday, apparently, and this piece today from the AP sets out the parameters pretty well, including debunking the notion that what ACORN has been charged with reaches the level of vote fraud.

By legal definition, to commit voter fraud means a person would have to present some kind of documentation at the polls — a driver's license, a phone bill or another form of ID — that bears the name of Mickey Mouse, for example. To do so risks a fine and imprisonment under state laws.

Submitting fake registration cards is another matter. Local law enforcement agencies in about a dozen states are investigating fake registrations submitted by ACORN workers. Late last week, The Associated Press reported the FBI will be reviewing those cases.
That sums it up pretty neatly. They also mention that "Many states require that all registrations be submitted to local voting officials so that election directors are in charge of vetting problem ballots, not the groups collecting them," which is further evidence that what ACORN was doing adhered to the letter of the law, as opposed to breaking it.

Voter registration fraud does happen, however. In 2004, a guy named Nathan Sproul was hired by the RNC to do voter registration. His group was found to betricking Democrats into registering as Republicans, surreptitiously re-registering Democrats and Independents as Republicans, and shredding Democratic registration forms in several Western states. And in a story published today, "the head of a voter registration group hired by the California Republican Party was arrested over the weekend for allegedly lying about his address in the state in order to vote illegally, the office of California's secretary of state announced Sunday."

This has become the modus operandi of the Republican party since the early 1990's. Whatever you're guilty of, point and scream at the opposition and accuse them. It happened with extra-marital affairs, it happened with accusations about not wanting full recounts in Florida 2000, and it's happening now. Republicans are engaging and have engaged in voter registration fraud, so they're attacking ACORN. At least for now, it seems the corporate media is pointing out the facts of the case.

One More Sports Post

And then I'll go back to ignoring the subject. Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for their first trip to the World Series. I would like to point out that I predicted the Devil Rays would make the Series way back in early April. Very early April, as a matter of fact. The first day of April, as it happens. But of course, I was serious at the time. I swear.

Football Fans for Obama!

Miami Dolphins Owner Wayne Huizenga (not the most popular man in south Florida) may have just gift-wrapped the state for Barack Obama, saying he'll sell his stake in the Dolphins If Obama is elected.

Okay, that's not quite accurate. Huizenga is actually selling his stake because he believes Obama will be elected, and that Obama's tax policies will be less favorable to billionaires who sell their businesses. I expect he's right on that, and the other side of that is that McCain's policies would presumably be favorable to billionaires who sell their businesses. No shock there either.

Sports fans in south Florida haven't been fond of Huizenga for a while now, though. The Dolphins have been mediocre for a while, and when he owned the Marlins, he got a World Series out of the deal and then sold off the players while raising ticket prices. I don't know too many sports fans who would be sad to see Huizenga take a hike from the Florida sports world permanently.

So here's a new commercial idea for south Florida. Dolphins Fans--want to get rid of Huizenga once and for all? Vote Obama/Biden.

In all seriousness, early voting starts tomorrow. I'm volunteering for the Hillary Clinton event tomorrow morning and will take pictures if I get the chance.

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