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November 13, 2004

Red vs. blue

Okay, every time I mention the Great Divide, I get email from liberals who live in Iowa or Arkansas or Texas, insisting that their very existence refutes the whole red America/blue America thing. And I'll concede up front that it's an oversimplification. Look, not only did I grow up in Iowa and Arkansas (with some time in Georgia and Florida as well), but my very livelihood as an adult has depended for many years on the fact that my work runs in newspapers all over the damn place, probably in more red states than blue.

(And just glancing at my Cafe Press stats, in the last few weeks, I see I've received orders from Texas, Tennessee, Virginia, Colorado, Louisiana, Iowa, Wisconsin, New Mexico, South Carolina, Florida, Georgia, Utah, Alabama...I could go on, but you probably get the point.)

However.

Because I did grow up in Iowa and Arkansas, I also know that being a liberal in those places--even when you are sequestered in a college town--is a substantively different experience from being a liberal in San Francisco or New York. And anyone who writes me and tries to pretend otherwise, tries to pretend that there is absolutely no difference, that rural Arkansas is every bit as enlightened and tolerant as San Francisco or New York, and only an out-of-touch East Coast elitist would think otherwise--well, you may be kidding yourself, but you're not kidding me.

In short, I think it's foolish to deny that there are regional cultural differences--but I also think they're not always as clear cut as the easy media stereotype would suggest. Which may be why Frank Rich chooses to emphasize the difference in red and blue culture:

The blue ascendancy is nearly as strong among Republicans as it is among Democrats. Those whose "moral values" are invested in cultural heroes like the accused loofah fetishist Bill O'Reilly and the self-gratifying drug consumer Rush Limbaugh are surely joking when they turn apoplectic over MTV. William Bennett's name is now as synonymous with Las Vegas as silicone. The Democrats' Ashton Kutcher is trumped by the Republicans' Britney Spears. Excess and vulgarity, as always, enjoy a vast, bipartisan constituency, and in a democracy no political party will ever stamp them out.

If anyone is laughing all the way to the bank this election year, it must be the undisputed king of the red cultural elite, Rupert Murdoch. Fox News is a rising profit center within his News Corporation, and each red-state dollar that it makes can be plowed back into the rest of Fox's very blue entertainment portfolio. The Murdoch cultural stable includes recent books like Jenna Jameson's "How to Make Love Like a Porn Star" and the Vivid Girls' "How to Have a XXX Sex Life," which have both been synergistically, even joyously, promoted on Fox News by willing hosts like Rita Cosby and, needless to say, Mr. O'Reilly. There are "real fun parts and exciting parts," said Ms. Cosby to Ms. Jameson on Fox News's "Big Story Weekend," an encounter broadcast on Saturday at 9 p.m., assuring its maximum exposure to unsupervised kids.

The Stranger, on the other hand, argues that the Great Divide is ultimately between city mice and country mice:

It's time to state something that we've felt for a long time but have been too polite to say out loud: Liberals, progressives, and Democrats do not live in a country that stretches from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico. We live on a chain of islands. We are citizens of the Urban Archipelago, the United Cities of America. We live on islands of sanity, liberalism, and compassion--New York City, Chicago, Philadelphia, Seattle, St. Louis, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and on and on. And we live on islands in red states too--a fact obscured by that state-by-state map. Denver and Boulder are our islands in Colorado; Austin is our island in Texas; Las Vegas is our island in Nevada; Miami and Fort Lauderdale are our islands in Florida. Citizens of the Urban Archipelago reject heartland "values" like xenophobia, sexism, racism, and homophobia, as well as the more intolerant strains of Christianity that have taken root in this country.

There's more, and I don't agree with all of it, and I'm sure it will annoy a lot of you, especially if you happen to be a liberal living in a rural setting. But, sorry--your existence does not negate the larger point they are making, the thing that a lot of people trying to grapple with right now: there are two sets of values in America. And to be blunt, ours are better. So how do we win this fight next time around? Figuring out who "we" are seems like a better place to start than wasting time wondering how to appeal to knuckle-draggers who worry that gay marriage will lead inevitably to matrimony between men and animals, if not kitchen appliances.

Or so it seems to me. But what the hell do I know? I'm just an out-of-touch Northeastern elitist.

A little too late

If I believed anyone actually made decisions based upon what David Brooks has to say, this would be infuriating.

Not that it will do him much good at this point, but I owe John Kerry an apology. I recently mischaracterized some comments he made to Larry King in December 2001. I said he had embraced the decision to use Afghans to hunt down Al Qaeda at Tora Bora. He did not. I regret the error.

A very good rant

Here.

...a number of readers seem to have a problem with this one. All I can say is, "lighten up." And remember that Swift wasn't really suggesting that we eat Irish babies, either. Sure, this piece is hyperbolic, but the fundamental point is important: how exactly is it that liberals, especially Northeastern liberals, have come to be defined as somehow less than "real" Americans? I've been getting bashed over the head with that crap since 9/11, and I can assure you, it gets old real quick.

Election fraud

Still not sure what to think on this. On the one hand, it seems unlikely that the Republicans stole not only the presidency, but all those Congressional races, and all those anti-gay-marriage initiatives as well. Occam's Razor would tend to suggest that the country simply tilted slightly to the right this time around. On the other hand--well, remember who we're dealing with. They stole one election already, and they spent four years lying about pretty much everything. Anyway, I'm remaining agnostic on this one for the time being, but Bob has some interesting stuff up:

Without getting into all the state-by-state details -- I'll let Prof. Freeman tend to the numbers -- what happened last Tuesday, where a wide variety of extremely accurate exit polls suddenly turned out to be at the extremes or even beyond their margin of error, was exceedingly unlikely -- even if the benefits of these errors had been evenly distributed.

But they weren't evenly distributed.  They favored Bush.  Over and over and over.  That's the coin flipping.  And flipping.  And still coming up heads.  Heads in Florida.  Heads in Ohio.  Heads in a bunch of other swing states (even while the exit polls remained relatively accurate elsewhere).  Almost everywhere the election was close, the coin just kept coming up heads.

How bad was it?

According to Dr. Freeman's analysis... 1 in 250,000,000.

One in a quarter of a billion.

In simpler terms, that 50-50 coin flip just came up "heads" almost thirty times in a row.

One thing I do believe: saying that something is a "conspiracy theory" doesn't automatically discredit it. People conspire all the time. Anyone who's ever had a job should understand this. Any time two people try to hide something from their boss--that's a conspiracy.

--------------------

November 12, 2004

A small experiment

Got a couple of ebay auctions up--a very rare poster and an original strip. A note about the latter--over the years I've gotten a lot of email asking if I ever sell original art. Mostly I haven't, because even when I was working in pen and ink, the "final" art was the product of several layers of xerography and zip-a-tone, not exactly what most comic art collectors have in mind when they want to buy a pen-and-ink original. But since about 2000, my artwork has been created entirely digitally, which means there is a finite supply of the pre-digital originals. On top of which, I almost never sell them. So that's got to be worth something, right? We'll see...

--------------------

November 11, 2004

Further contact of head with desk

Inspired by this:

Several ABC affiliates have announced that they won't take part in the network's Veterans Day airing of "Saving Private Ryan," saying the acclaimed film's violence and language could draw sanctions from the Federal Communications Commission.

Stations replacing the movie with other programming Thursday include Cox Television-owned stations in Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C., three Midwest stations owned by Citadel Communications.

"Under strict interpretation of the rules, we can't run that programming before 10 p.m.," said Ray Cole, president of Citadel, which owns WOI-TV in Des Moines, KCAU-TV in Sioux City and KLKN-TV in Lincoln, Neb.

The Oscar-winning film includes a violent depiction of the D-Day invasion and profanity.

"We have attempted to get an advanced waiver from the FCC and, remarkably to me, they are not willing to do so," Cole told The Des Moines Register...

Cole cited recent FCC actions and last week's re-election of President Bush as reasons for replacing "Saving Private Ryan" on Thursday with a music program and the TV movie "Return to Mayberry."

"We're just coming off an election where moral issues were cited as a reason by people voting one way or another and, in my opinion, the commissioners are fearful of the new Congress," Cole said.

Hat tip: Jim M.

Email that makes me wonder why I bother

I don't mind the monkey mail, the gloating conservatives who haven't been this happy since Pulling-Down-the-Statue Day. But this sort of crap really gets on my nerves:

Many of us look to blogs as a gateway to more accurate, unbiased information than is available on the mainstream media. Your readers deserve better.   You, like Kerry, might find it easiest to simply walk away from a tough fight, but he owes the American people better than that (and you owe us readers and your supporters something too) ...because it is about all of our votes counting not about him winning or losing.   And you as an alternative news resource owe us readers the opportunity to make up our minds by at least discussing the news of widespread irregularities in the election process.   Or are you so battle weary that you have resigned to the fact that we no longer live in a democracy?

What can I even say? To this reader specifically: if you feel you are "owed" anything you are in the wrong place. Go away. Go elsewhere. Your expectations far surpass anything you will ever find here, and you will only be disappointed.

...sorry, just had to get that one off my chest. You know, straw, camel's back, blah blah blah. (Minor edits.)

Sound of one head pounding against a desk

Mine, that is. The word "unbelievable" no longer has meaning. What am I going on about? Why, Bush's choice for Attorney General, of course (via Willis).

Gonzales then laid out startlingly broad arguments that anticipated any objections to the conduct of U.S. soldiers or CIA interrogators in the future. "As you have said, the war against terrorism is a new kind of war," Gonzales wrote to Bush. "The nature of the new war places a high premium on other factors, such as the ability to quickly obtain information from captured terrorists and their sponsors in order to avoid further atrocities against American civilians." Gonzales concluded in stark terms: "In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva's strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions."

--------------------

November 10, 2004

The dog's new chew toy



...you can buy them here.

Signs of the times

Truly appalling trend, as described in today's Wall Street Journal:

When a deputy sheriff came to his door with a court summons, George Kneifel, a retiree in Union Mills, Ind., was mystified. His former employer was suing him.

The employer, beverage-can maker Rexam Inc., had agreed in labor contracts to provide retirees with health-care coverage. But now the company was asking a federal judge to rule that it could reduce or eliminate the benefit.

Many companies have already cut back company-paid health-care coverage for retirees from their salaried staffs. But until recently, employers generally were barred from touching unionized retirees' benefits because they are spelled out in labor contracts. Now, some are taking aggressive steps to pare those benefits as well, including going to court.

In the past two years, employers have sued union retirees across the country. In the suits, they ask judges to rule that no matter what labor contracts say, they have a right to change the benefits. Some companies also argue that contract references to "lifetime" coverage don't mean the lifetime of the retirees, but the life of the labor contract. Since the contracts expired many years ago, the promises, they say, have expired too.

Story here.


--------------------

November 09, 2004

WTF?
Ashcroft, in a five-page, handwritten letter to Bush, said, "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime and terror has been achieved."

Okay, then.

TCB

Now that the election's over, I'm going to pull a couple of designs from the shop (this one and this one for sure, maybe a couple of others).

Other designs, unfortunately, are more timely than ever.

Also, while I'm on the subject of business--I know it's not even Thanksgiving yet, but the holidays aren't too far away now, and if you're thinking of ordering either the Sparky & Blinky ornaments from Great Lakes, or a signed print, you'd be very wise to do this sooner rather than later.

The "stolen" election

I'm with Atrios on this one:

...irregularities and questionable results are not necessarily "proof" of "fraud" and "proof" that the "election was stolen. " If people want this issue to be taken seriously they need to stop thinking that any of the information floating around right now - and yes, I've seen it all multiple times - provides proof of any such thing. Yes, legitimate questions have been raised, but I fear people on "our side" have started to confuse the legitimate questions with the answers to those questions they've imagined. I'm fully ready to believe that everything was corrupt in Florida, Ohio, and elsewhere, but thinking and knowing are different things entirely.

The "stolen election" argument was a loser in 2000 when the election pretty clearly was stolen. Without a smoking gun, preferably with Karl Rove's fingerprints on it, I just don't think it's going anywhere this year.

But if that smoking gun turns up, all bets are, of course, off.

Overlooking something?

Writing in the Wall Street Journal last week, Daniel Henninger asks:

How did the 2004 election map of the United States come to look like a color-field painting by Barnett Newman? In fact, if you adjust the map's colors for votes by county (as at the Web sites for CNN and USA Today), even the blue states turn mostly red. Pennsylvania is blue, but between blue Philadelphia and Pittsburgh every county in the state is red. California, except for the coastline, is almost entirely red.

Unsurprisingly, he has an answer:

This didn't happen last Tuesday.The color-coding of the 2004 election began around 1965 in the politics of the Vietnam era. The Democratic Party today is the product of a generational shift that began in those years.

Henninger blames it all on the "Vietnam generation" and their wacky protest politics...but let's see--did anything else happen around that time, causing a massive shift in voting patterns, particularly in the South? Anything that Henninger neglects to mention, because it would, you know, completely undermine his already-shaky thesis?

Oh, right.

Update: more maps for Henninger to contemplate.

Thanks, red staters!

For giving us another four years of news like this:

American intelligence agencies have tripled their formal estimate of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missile systems believed to be at large worldwide, since determining that at least 4,000 of the weapons in Iraq's prewar arsenals cannot be accounted for, government officials said Friday.

A new government estimate says a total of 6,000 of the weapons may be outside the control of any government, up from a previous estimate of 2,000, American officials said.

...when I use the shorthand of "red staters," I guess I mean it more as a state of mind--remember, I am from Iowa myself, and not given to writing people off on the basis of geography. Nonetheless, I have been rightly chastised for promulgating this red v. blue crap--when the reality is that it's mostly a purple country that happens to have tilted ever-so-slightly in favor of the Republicans this year.

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