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  • September 24, 2008

    The Five Things You値l Hear Every Election Year

    [Posted by ]

    Forty-one days and it値l all be over. I知 so looking forward to November 5th. No more political ads. No more no-CAN-SPAM-required political email. No phone calls from distinguished liberals and conservatives. I cannot wait.

    Back in the heady days of the 1992 election, I couldn稚 get enough. As a political science major, I even had an Election Campaign Practicum class. We had to work on a campaign (any campaign we wanted, Wisconsin is no UMass ;-) and participated in a computer-simulated Senate race. I loved every second of it. Now, part of that may have been because my computer campaign team included a hot Hoofers sailing instructor simply known as 鼎ute Will (as an aside, 鼎ute Will is the only man that both me and my friend Amber find attractive. Actually, wait, I have to take that back now as we致e both succumbed to the charms of a certain employee at the France 44 liquor store.)

    Anyway, part of my election fatigue is simply a case of been there and done that. The specifics change, but the storylines don稚. These five stories simply won稚 go away.

    1. 的f so-n-so wins, I知 moving to Canada.

    No you池e not.

    We heard it from Alec Baldwin back in 2000 and numerous celebs and libs alike in 2004. Just a few days ago, Susan Sarandon threatened (promised?) to move to Canada or Italy if McCain wins. The Canada threat is so popular that it痴 officially something white people like. And, it痴 even been spoofed by The Onion.

    Again, you池e not moving to Canada. Even if the dreaded, TEH EVUL, Grumpy McOldGuy wins, Canada is still a cold land of muzzled back bacon eaters. After eight years of promises, this is an empty threat. Stop teasing us.

    2. 的f my candidate doesn稚 win, it痴 because of something negative about the electorate, not my candidate.

    The meme for 2008 is that if Barack Obama loses, it痴 because America痴 渡ot ready for a black President. You got that? If you vote for McCain, you池e a racist. I just thought you should know. Similarly, if you voted for GWB, it痴 because you池e a Jesus freak. Isn稚 it easy? Not so fast, my friend. I値l treat you to Kris condensed version of who won & why in her Presidential election lifetime:

    1972: McGovern was a 派alf-crazy radical in an era when the people who actually vote (see #4 below) were really frickin sick of hippies, so Nixon easily won.
    1976: People thought Nixon was a crook now, so they voted for squeaky clean Jimmy Carter
    1980: Carter was a disaster, so the electorate wanted change in the inspiring form of Ronald Reagan
    1984: Everything was going pretty well, so Reagan got four more years
    1988: Everything was still pretty good, so George H.W. Bush got an extension of the Reagan presidency
    1992: Voters punished George H.W. Bush for 迭ead my lips, no new taxes. Voters didn稚 vote for Perot or Clinton as much as they voted against Bush
    1996: Everything was going pretty well, so Clinton got four more years
    2000: By all accounts, this should have gone to Gore, but there really wasn稚 much of a difference between Gore and George W. Bush (which is why Nader got some votes) and Bush is actually more like Clinton (the laid back Southern governor) than Gore is, so he got the narrow win
    2004: The economy was okay and Bush was more trustworthy as Commander in Chief, hence the win
    2008: Both candidates are running against Bush, so it really could come down to a decision by the electorate over whether solutions to America痴 problems are best implemented by a big government or free markets.

    Actually, that makes 2008 sound kind of interesting, doesn稚 it? But, that痴 probably not what it痴 going to come down to. The election will probably be decided by who promises the most to aging Baby Boomers. But that痴 just me being cynical.

    3. 的f my candidate wins, the incumbent will declare martial law to stay in power.

    A simple Google search for 釘ush martial law turns up thousands of wacky posts about how 田learly scores of brown shirted fascists are even now planning to take over the country in the event of an Obama victory in November. Actually, if you want to read even more wacky posts, you can also do a search for 韮ush marshall law ;-).

    Anyway, in the spirit of non partisanship, it痴 not just the Left痴 crackiest crackpots that believe this. The wingiest wingnuts on the Right thought the same thing about Bill Clinton. Hell, some people are even preparing for the inevitable onslaught of Hillary痴 pant suited brigades in 2028.

    4. 鄭merica痴 youth will 喪ock the vote this year!!!

    Every election, the mythical 土outh vote is supposed to make a difference, change the world, blah blah blah. Every election, the actual 登ld fart vote decides things. I love this quote on the topic:

    Waiting for the youth vote is like waiting for Godot," said Steven Schier, a political scientist at Carleton College in Northfield, Minn. "Obama is trying to invalidate that perception.

    Exactly. Sure, a slightly higher percentage of Americans age 18-24 may vote in 2008. Or maybe not. Maybe it値l be too cold or the lines will be too long or they won稚 get around to registering or they can稚 figure out where there polling place is or they池e too busy playing Guitar Hero. You get the idea.

    Having witnessed the inane political commentary on Facebook recently, I can稚 say that I really want some of these people voting. Do you?

    5. 典he other party will steal the election just like they did before.

    Eight years later, we池e still hearing about how Bush 都tole the 2000 election. Likewise, even 48 years later, it痴 commonly held mythology that Kennedy defeated Nixon only because of the support of Chicago痴 finest dead folks.

    People pass around stories about road blocks suppressing black voters, wicked Diebold machines, slashed tires and smokes-for-votes schemes without any proof. What they lack in truth, they make up for in truthiness. And at the end of the day, isn稚 that what really matters?

    Sometimes I feel like Hiro Nakamura. I can skip over the next six weeks because I already know what痴 going to happen. Wouldn稚 it be something to be surprised? Wait, not an October surprise, but a really surprising and substantive election. A girl can dream

    Posted by at 11:39 PM | Comments (6)     
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    September 12, 2008

    Monday Night Football Saved My Life

    [Posted by ]

    I was watching the History Channel's new documentary, 102 Minutes That Changed America last night. The film puts together amateur video & audio in chronological order to tell the story of the attacks on the World Trade Center. In one video, a man talks about how he was supposed to have been on the 38th floor of one of the towers, but he was 15 minutes late for work because he was up late the previous night watching Monday Night Football. Denver beat the New York Giants that night, so who knows how many other people were saved by the pigskin.

    Looking back from seven years, a few things struck me:

    • So many people expressed relief that the attacks were "early" enough that the towers weren't yet full of workers. The attacks started at 8:45 am. In the Midwest, everyone, even people who work on the web, would be in the office. It's just always funny to me how different the rhythms of East Coast life are compared to those of us in the Midwest.
    • There are scenes of chaos and horror videotaped by those who lived around the towers that rarely see the light of day. We're so used to seeing the iconic (god, that's a bad word, but you know what I mean) images of the second plane crashing and the Towers collapsing, but it's frankly shocking to see people jumping, sidewalk planters engulfed in flames and the sheer amount of debris on the ground before the towers came down.
    • One of the videographers is a college student who shot the towers from her apartment window three blocks away. As she's watching people jump from the towers, you hear her trying to convince herself that they aren't people. Maybe it's a chair, she says. Even though I know that it's people, even I, seven years later, am so horrified by what people went through that day that I actually caught myself agreeing with her. Maybe it was a chair. Maybe someone used a chair to break a window and it's just a chair. It's not a person, it's just a chair.
    • One man interviewed people watching the day unfold in Times Square. It's amazing to hear the anger. People were out for blood. We should bomb the whole Middle East to smithereens. The last seven years have tempered that attitude. It's not surprising, but it is kind of ironic to think that part of the President's unpopularity is due to the fact that he's been successful in preventing another attack on US soil. If something had happened in say, 2005, that would have been it. We wouldn't wring our hands over Iraq, Iran, Gitmo or anything else. I'm not saying it's necessarily a bad thing that we have tempered, questioned and agonized over our response to terrorism, it's just funny how the current administration's success in one area has almost lead to their failure in another.

    Anyway, the documentary was absolutely riveting and I strongly suggest that you catch it the next time the History Channel replays it (as an aside, it occurs to me that 9/11 is so the History's Channel's Hitler for the 2000's, isn't it?).

    Posted by at 07:27 AM | Comments (3)     
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    September 10, 2008

    What's next in the schools?

    [Posted by ]

    One of the things that Sarah Palin has been accused of is wanting abstinence-only sex education taught in schools. She's said she's "I am opposed to explicit sex education." Because of her daughter's pregnancy, critics are quick to say "A ha!" and point to Bristol Palin's pregnancy as the natural consequence of a lack of sex education.

    Personally, if I had a daughter, I'd chop up birth control pills in her food as soon as she turned 13. But that's just me. Other parents feel differently, and that's the point. Parents should be responsible for this type of thing. Instead of asking what kind of sex education we should be teaching in schools, why aren't we asking why in the world we're teaching sex education in schools in the first place? Between parents, the Internet and the playground, I'm quite sure that curious children can learn plenty. Wouldn't the time spent on sex ed and the money spent on health class teachers be better spent teaching kids, oh, I don't know, reading, writing, math and science?

    Somehow, we've started to expect public schools to teach everything. Just yesterday, I was reading an article about how bike-friendly Wisconsin is. Naturally, the comments to the article quickly degenerated into a "bikes suck!" "cars suck!" argument (seriously - these must be the same people who constantly shouted "Ogg sucks!" out of their dorm rooms years ago). One commenter suggested:

    Better still would be to make it part of primary or secondary educational curriculum. It's a little strange when you think about it洋ost people receive no bicycle education at all, and many bicycle facilities are designed as an afterthought to roads擁s it really such a mystery why bike riders don't behave predictably?

    I'm aghast at the kind of society that move on when people receive no bicycle education at all. The horror. Clearly we must remedy this with a required quarter-long class taught by some Bicycle Federation member for the low, low price of $35-$50K with state benefits. Whew! We all dodged a bullet there!

    Maybe sex education, driver's education, bicycle education and the like don't belong in schools at all. For years, Wisconsin's DNR has successfully managed a hunter education program. It doesn't take up valuable class time and parents don't have to subject their kids to it if they don't want to. Sounds good to me.

    Posted by at 09:10 AM | Comments (1)     
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    September 07, 2008

    Playing the Political Game

    [Posted by ]

    Ladies & gentlemen, I'm pleased to report that our national epidemic of Bush Derangement Syndrome (BDS) is over. That's the good news. The bad news is that the "cure", Palin Derangement Syndrome (PDS), may be worse than the disease.

    I'm forever both amused and dismayed by the need of some people to demonize their political opponents. In their world, it's not possible for good people to simply disagree about the best way to shape America. If you disagree with them, you're evil.

    Actually, it's even worse than that. If you simply belong to the other party, you're evil. Your policies and viewpoints actually don't have anything to do with it.

    Remember back to the heady days of May 2004? The American Left practically had a collective orgasm over the idea that John Kerry would choose John McCain as his running mate? It was, they said, a "dream team". Now, suddenly, John McCain is TEH EVUL. John McCain hasn't changed, he's just no longer useful to the Left.

    Likewise, after over a decade of demonizing Hillary Clinton, the Right suddenly couldn't sympathize and root for her enough when her continued candidacy started to put the hurt into Barack Obama.

    People identify with the Democrat or Republican party the same way as they do with the Green Bay Packers or Boston Red Sox. Think about it, is the reaction to Clinton or McCain really any different than the reaction of Packer fans to the possibility of Randy Moss joining the team or the reality of Brett Favre leaving it?

    Do most people really care about anything other than making sure that their "team" wins? I doubt it. If people actually cared about the issues, we'd talk about them and debate various approaches to America's problems. Instead, we play "gotcha" after every speech and dig up mountains of dirt on candidates, hoping something will finally stick.

    I hate the games. I hate the coverage. I hate politics. I feel like the money I've given to the Institute for Justice will do far more for my country than any vote I'll cast in November.

    Posted by at 07:09 PM | Comments (0)     
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    September 06, 2008

    Media Downplays McCain/Palin Crowd in Cedarburg

    [Posted by ]

    Remember when the media reported that a Milwaukee crowd at a W. rally cheered the news of Bill Clinton's heart attack? Well, they're at it again with some blatant low-balling of attendance at yesterday's Cedarburg rally. The AP says that "more than a thousand" people attended the rally. State police estimated a crowd of 20 to 30 thousand, while apparently the count of people on the "McCain Street" itself was 12,500.

    How curious. It's like the media have a some kind of motivation to downplay support for the Republican ticket. I wonder why.

    Posted by at 07:41 AM | Comments (1)     
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    September 05, 2008

    McCain & Palin in Cedarburg

    [Posted by ]

    John McCain & Sarah Palin's first campaign stop after last night's convention was in lovely Cedarburg, Wisconsin. It's only about two hours away from me, so I thought I'd make the trip & snap some pictures.

    Unfortunately, someone in the campaign grossly underestimated the appeal of being first, and so instead of getting some great shots of the potential President and his running mate, I was stuck in this line for over two hours:

    I was one of the last people to make it through the metal detectors and onto to "McCain Street". I arrived just in time to listen (but not see) Palin & McCain basically rehash their convention speeches. How disappointing. I realize that politicians give a basic stump speech, but I didn't realize it was almost exactly the same as their nomination speech. The dynamic duo (well, okay Palin is...) didn't stray too far from the text and really offered nothing in specifics in terms of either policy or for the people of Wisconsin. Here was my view of some Secret Service agents on the roof and the bleachers where the media got to hang out.

    So, without seeing the candidates or hearing anything new, I pretty much entertained myself by taking pictures of other people in line. One note - there were almost no Obama supporters at the event. Maybe they were afraid of the bitter people of small town Wisconsin? There were, however, tons of kids. These were two of my favorites:

    The other side of the hockey kid's sign said "My Dad thinks you're hot". Ladies & gentlemen, the pursuit of love recognizes no political barriers.

    Finally, here's a lovely flower picture from the sidewalk to brighten your weekend.

    Posted by at 05:02 PM | Comments (2)     
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